Mental health tops the list of pupil health concerns

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A report on pupil wellbeing by The Key has revealed that the most concerning pupil health and safeguarding issue for headteachers and other school leaders is mental health, followed by domestic violence and cyberbullying.

The report, which represents the views of 1,180 school leaders, identifies the scale of the challenge facing the new Child Protection Taskforce as schools increasingly seek to employ their own counsellors or draw on voluntary services  to tackle wide-ranging pupil wellbeing issues.

The results reveal that:

  • More than two-thirds (67%) of those surveyed are worried about their pupils’ mental health and almost three in five (58%) are concerned about domestic violence, followed by cyber bullying (55%), bullying (38%) and obesity (36%)
  •  Pupil mental health is consistently the largest wellbeing-related concern for leaders across school types, phases and English regions
  • Domestic violence is much more of a concern for primary school leaders (70%) than those in secondary schools (47%)
  • Cyber bullying is of concern to more secondary school leaders, with almost three-quarters (74%) of those surveyed saying this is a worry, compared to 59% of primary school leaders. Academy leaders also identified this as an area of concern (69% - second only to mental health)
  • Far fewer respondents reported being concerned by trafficking (3%) and forced marriage (6%)
  • School leaders in London are more concerned about gangs and youth violence (32%), FGM (27%) and radicalisation (26%) than those in any other region, with these issues ranking 6th, 8th and 9th respectively. In contrast the wider south east region ranked gangs and youth violence and radicalisation as 13th and 14th respectively, with 6% of school leaders indicating these as areas of concern
  • Drugs are of concern to school leaders across the country, ranking as the 6th most worrying issue for respondents in most regions. A notable exception is London – the only region where drugs ranked outside of the top 10 (11th)
  • While sexting and drugs rank higher as concerns for secondary school leaders (61% and 55% respectively), obesity ranks higher among primary school leaders (42%)

Speaking about the findings, Fergal Roche, Chief Executive of The Key, said:"Mental health issues, domestic violence, bullying and drugs have implications that reach far beyond the school gates, and can have a serious impact on the future prospects of those children affected. The level of concern about pupils’ mental health is particularly worrying given the recent history of cuts to mental health services."

Brian Lightman, leader of the ASCL heads' union, said: "There certainly has been an increase in the number of pupils who are displaying different types of mental health problems. It's often arising from difficult home backgrounds or a form of abuse or other types of mental health issues such as ADHD."

The release of The Key’s pupil wellbeing report closely follows the Government’s announcement of a new Child Protection Taskforce, which is intended to drive reforms to protect the most vulnerable children in society and give them the opportunity to succeed.

The Department of Health says it has increased funding and is introducing treatment targets so patients get the care they need when they need it.

School Leadership Today
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