The role of schools in providing for pupils with mental health difficulties7 Whole-school approaches to promoting good mental health10
Recognising and providing for individual needs17
Working in partnership with other agencies17
Relationships with parents24
Provision through professional referral31
This report examines the vital role played by schools in promoting the emotional well-being of their pupils. It analyses practice based on evidence gathered from visits by Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) to 72 schools and reports on the impact of the guidance provided to schools four years ago by the Department of Education and Skills (DfES) and the National Healthy Schools Standards (NHSS), agreed in 1999., Both clarify the importance of good provision to ensure that schools meet the needs of pupils with mental health difficulties.
Schools’ lack of knowledge of the DfES guidance results from a missed opportunity to improve the quality of provision for pupils with mental health difficulties. The large number of schools visited for this survey who were not working towards meeting the NHSS is of serious concern. Only just over half of them were aware that such standards existed. Of these, only a very small minority of schools were working towards or had met the criteria for providing for pupils’ emotional health and well-being. One barrier was the low level of awareness of the importance of the issue.
It is unsurprising, therefore, that training for staff on mental health difficulties was found to be needed in three quarters of the schools. Most training tended to focus on strategies for managing pupils’ behaviour rather than on promoting positive approaches to relationships and resolving conflicts.
Despite such a lack of awareness in schools of mental health issues, there was good practice in one third of the schools in the survey, including: • an ethos which valued and respected individuals
• a serious approach to bullying and pupils’ difficulties with relationships, and swift resolution of problems • good arrangements for listening carefully to pupils’ views • the involvement of parents in identifying problems and making provision for their children.
Good joint working between health services, social services and schools was at the heart of effective planning and provision for individual pupils. Although multi-agency working was becoming better established within local education authorities, it was unsatisfactory in a quarter of the schools. Schools, parents and pupils were not always aware of how they might gain access to services. The best arrangements included regular meetings attended by a range of professionals, where work was coordinated, referrals made and difficulties followed up.
Health services, social services and schools used different terms to describe mental health difficulties. The lack of a common language added to difficulties in recognising and meeting pupils’ needs. Schools identified about one in twenty pupils with mental health problems, although the Department of Health suggests a figure nearer one in ten.
Arrangements for pupils to refer themselves for support and help were popular with them, as well as effective. This was particularly so where a pupil was struggling...