UK: worrying mental health issues for too many students

published 2 August 2018 updated 7 August 2018

Reacting to the announcement from the UK Department for Education on plans for all schools to teach children about good physical and mental health, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers has stressed that mental health issues represent a daily fact of life for many students.

Reductions in staffing levels make it more difficult to support children’s learning and wellbeing

According to a survey conducted in March 2018 and released on 19 July 2018 by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), teachers say that they are struggling to access professional support for students experiencing mental health problems, noting an increase in the number of children and young people experiencing depression, panic attacks and self-harming.

The majority of teachers insist that reductions in staffing levels at their school are making it more difficult to support children’s learning and wellbeing.

Among the findings of the survey, which attracted 1,359 responses:

•             96% believe they encounter students who are experiencing mental health issues. Of these, 92% say pupils are exhibiting anxiety or panic attacks, 80% depression and 67% self-harm;

•             Nearly two thirds (64%) say they are not confident that they or their school would be able to get timely support from expert services such as CAMHS for students experiencing mental health problems;

•             Over half (51%) say staff numbers at their school have decreased in the last two years, with nearly two thirds (65%) saying they are not able to give students as much individual attention in lessons due to the loss of support staff and a similar number (64%) saying students are not always taught by a teacher trained for the subject or age range due to the loss of teaching staff.

The survey also found concerns from some teachers about the way in which student exclusions and managed moves are being conducted.

“Teachers have never before had to deal with such a complex range of pupil welfare issues as they do today,” NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates acknowledged.

“The pressure on teachers and headteachers is enormous and is putting at risk their own mental and physical health and wellbeing,” she went on to warn.

NASUWT: a governmental responsibility and a betrayal of teachers and students

Explaining that these challenges are compounded by cuts to school staffing and to external specialist support, she reasserted that the Government must bear responsibility for the position in which schools find themselves.

She concluded highlighting that “it is a betrayal of staff and pupils to continue to expect schools alone to deal with all of these issues”.