A trial involving hundreds of schools to test different approaches to supporting young people’s mental health ‘does not go far enough,’ says BACP.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds announced today, at the start of Children’s Mental Health Week, that the project aims to give schools new, robust evidence about what works best for their students’ mental health and wellbeing.
The trial will include mindfulness exercises, relaxation techniques and breathing exercises as well as pupil sessions with mental health experts.
But it does not include looking at how school-based counselling, which is already in place in the majority of schools in England, can help pupils too.
Potentially a sticking plaster approach
Jo Holmes, BACP’s children, young people and families lead, said: “This trial does not go far enough and could potentially offer only a sticking plaster approach to the crisis faced in schools across England.
“This is a missed opportunity to investigate further how school-based counselling can benefit children, and how it can be used alongside these other techniques. If school-based counselling had been included, then the trial would be a more holistic and step change approach to managing and responding to the plethora of issues that children and young people are presenting with. Evidence from school-based counselling in Wales demonstrates that young people’s outcomes significantly improve following counselling sessions as well as referrals to more specialist agencies decreasing.
“Relaxation and mindfulness are fantastic, but do not get to the root of a problem and are at the very least, coping strategies. ‘Mental health experts’ need to include school-based counsellors, a workforce that are trained and ready to go. Children and young people need more than just ‘advice’.”
A total of 370 primary and secondary schools in England will take part in the pilot scheme, which is one of the largest studies of its kind and will run until 2021.
Mr Hinds also said that the government will introduce compulsory health education in all schools.
He said children will start to be introduced gradually to issues around mental health, wellbeing and happiness right from the start of primary school.
Prepare our children
Jo commented: “BACP welcomes the introduction of statutory health education in all schools as we know it is patchy at present and can often depend on driven individuals.
“Well-being support, alongside good quality psycho-education has a tremendous role to play in primary and secondary educational settings and can begin to help prepare our children and young people for potential challenges ahead. It not only helps reduce stigma and raises awareness but enables our children, from an early age, to draw upon resources and techniques that could later become embedded for life.”