5th December 2022
NHS Figures Show One in Six School-age Children in England has a Probable Mental Disorder.
Schools and mental health services are struggling to help
NHS figures published this week show that one in six school-age children in England has a probable mental disorder. While the rise in mental health rates has remained the same, the rate among 17 to 19-year-olds has risen to one in four, up from one in six last year and one in ten in 2017.
There has been a rise in secondary pupils with probable disorders from 17.7%to 20.4% over the same period but a fall in primary pupils, from 18.1% in 2021 to 15.2% this year..
Vic Goddard, headteacher at Passmores Academy in Essex, told Schools Week: “Sadly what will happen is there will be a child that’s really let down and loses their life for whatever reason because we just weren’t resourced enough.” Pupils at the school raised 330 mental health-related concerns with school staff between June and November 2021. In the same period this year, the figure stood at 311. Although there has been a drop, it’s still much higher than pre-pandemic levels.
“When we came back from Covid and cases were incredibly high, we hoped to return to normal,” Goddard added, “But cases haven’t come down and this is the new normal.”
Among all 11 to 16-year-olds, a quarter had accessed mental health and wellbeing support at school, with boys more likely to be affected at primary, and girls at secondary. Those with probable disorders are also three times more likely to miss 15 days of school than their classmates.
A Schools Week investigation this year found that 17 NHS trusts were rejecting on average 18 per cent of CAMHS referrals, with parents and schools saying thresholds are too high.
“For a full CAMHS appointment, the threshold is higher and higher,” Goddard said. “They’ve got a certain amount of resource and they need to target the most vulnerable children. But what you really want is prevention not cure.”
NHS figures show 733,000 children and young people were in contact with mental health services in the 2021-22 financial year, compared with 398,000 in 2018-19.
Although the average waiting time for treatment has dropped – from 53 to 40 days, this can vary, with children in Gloucestershire and Brighton and Hove waiting on average 70 days.
Pupils in the poorest areas hit hardest
A school-age child with a probable disorder was more likely to live in a household that could not afford to keep the home warm – 13.6% – compared with 6% of children who were unlikely to have a disorder, NHS figures show.
The same is true of pupils in households that have fallen behind with bills, rent or mortgage (17.8% compared with 7.6%) and where the household could not afford enough food or had to use a food bank (11.8% compared to 4.4%).
The government has promised all schools and colleges will have access to senior mental health lead training by 2025.
The DfE is also looking at procuring “resources hubs” and a separate mental health “toolkit” for schools to “make it easier for staff by saving their time and reducing uncertainty around which resources are most useful”.