A SURVEY of school leaders published this week by school leaders’ union NAHT and children’s mental health charity Place2Be reveals that the number of schools commissioning professional help for children’s mental health issues has increased significantly since 2016.

In 2016, just over a third ­— 36 per cent ­— of schools in England provided school-based support for students’ emotional and mental wellbeing.

By 2019, this had almost doubled to 66 per cent.

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The latest survey was completed by 653 school leaders at the end of 2019.

The latest findings show an improved understanding and recognition of children’s mental health in schools; but access to external NHS help has not and more schools are now buying in their own support.

•74 per cent of school leaders said the majority of their staff are confident at recognising the signs of mental health problems among children and young people (versus 61 per cent in 2017).

•Just 4 per cent of school leaders agreed that Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) responds quickly to requests for support. Just 5 per cent agreed that children referred to CAMHS get help when they need it.

•66 per cent of school leaders said their school commissioned external professional support for children and young people’s mental health issues in school, compared to 36 per cent in 2016.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “We know that early intervention is absolutely key when it comes to mental health and wellbeing.

“We can see that schools are responding to an increasing need and a lack of capacity in specialist services by commissioning their own support such as counsellors. Although to be applauded, this is another area where schools are being forced to use scant resources for urgent provision that is not provided for in their budgets.

“There is still concern that when children do have more serious mental health needs professional help is not easily available. Teachers are on the frontline for children’s mental health, but they are not qualified medical specialists.”

Catherine Roche, Chief Executive of charity Place2Be, said: “In this, Children’s Mental Health Week, we want to highlight that school staff need support to deal with the many and often complex emotional issues of their pupils. They need expert help in school, backed up by NHS services that can step in when more specialist support is required.”