Small change for schools mental health
This morning (Monday 10 May) the Secretary of State for Education made an announcement. “As part of Mental Health Awareness week, the Government has today promised more than £17 million. This is to build on mental health support already available in education settings. This will prioritise wellbeing alongside academic recovery.”
That sounds like an impressive commitment. After a 15 months in which lockdown seems to have been the norm it will be welcome. Especially for pupils who have been deprived of social interaction at one of the most formative times in their lives.
The specifics we later learned will be less impressive. Up to 7,800 schools and colleges in England will be offered funding worth £9.5 million. The money will be to train a senior mental health lead from their staff in the next academic year. The Government has already committed to offering this training to all state schools and colleges by 2025.
Two points stand out. Firstly that a member of staff will be asked to take on a very significant and important role. How that works around their existing teaching obligations is not clear. Either more staff will be needed, or the role will take up an insignificant amount of time. If it is the latter, it does not feel like a serious attempt to deal with a serious issue.
If it is the former, where will the funding come from? No funds have been pledged to provide the extra teaching resources to cover for the mental health lead.
Then when you look at the maths behind the announcement you realise how little is being given. Just £1,218 per school on average. For a well qualified mental health professional to give this training, that would amount to around a week of time. One week of training per school?
There is more money though. A further £7 million for the Wellbeing for Education Recovery programme. This provides free expert training, support and resources. It is aimed at staff dealing with children and young people experiencing additional pressures from the last year. Including trauma, anxiety, or grief. But again this works out at just under £900 per school.
No doubt any extra funding will be welcomed by our schools. But we have to ask if this is a serious commitment to mental well being or tokenism?