From trainees to headteachers, recent research indicates that school staff feel under-prepared when supporting mental health problems

Separate studies by children’s mental health charity, Place2Be, and Leeds Beckett University have found that school staff at both ends of their teaching careers feel under-prepared and under-trained when it comes to supporting the mental health of their students.
The Independent reported information from a survey commissioned by Place2Be that states almost half of school headteachers have insufficient knowledge about the support required to help the mental wellbeing of their pupils.
These findings were underpinned at the opposite end of the career spectrum when a study by Leeds Beckett University, as reported by Tes, identified that almost 60% of trainee teachers would be unsure of how to identify mental health needs in their pupils and 70% felt ill-equipped to provide the desired support.
Last week, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced plans to provide £5 million of funding to train primary school staff in mental health first aid. However, there are concerns that such an approach will add to an already high level of teacher workload and not be effective.
Catherine Roche, chief executive of Place2Be, explained: “School leaders are already under immense pressure to deliver academic progress and we shouldn’t expect them to become mental health experts as well. Schools need to have access to dedicated funding, support and training to be able to source, commission and evaluate services effectively.”
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of headteachers union NAHT, added: “The NAHT has continually argued for a more rounded approach, to take some of the emphasis away from schools and re-assert the importance of well-resourced and accessible local support services.”
Professor Jonathan Glazzard, who conducted the Leeds Beckett University study also outlined his concerns. “The proposals for additional funding will not reach all schools. This means that some of the most vulnerable pupils are at risk of not receiving appropriate and timely support.”
Despite an estimated 10% of children suffering from mental health problems, and around half of adult wellbeing problems beginning during childhood, receiving ‘timely support’ has been an issue in recent years.
Over 25% of referrals to specialist mental health services in 2016-17 were not accepted and waiting times are still substantial in many areas.
John Bishop, Evolve Managing Director, commented: “We have a perfect storm of dramatically increasing demand for CAMHS services and a system that is becoming increasingly unable to provide the support that is needed.”
He concluded: “The current spotlight on this serious issue is welcomed and justified but more attention must be placed on prevention and realistic programmes that are likely to make a difference. More training for teachers and accountability on the education system is not the answer since we need to increase workforce capacity to give children the time, support and expertise they really need.”