Ofsted to inspect mental health at all secondary schools

In a bid to tackle the increasing recurrence of mental health issues with young people the Government has agreed to bring in inspections for mental health provision in schools.

The Government has accepted recommendations to introduce inspections of mental health services within secondary schools made in the Institute for Public Policy Research’s report. In the report there is a focus on seizing the opportunity to intervene early when instances of mental health problems are found. The statistics are quite telling with three children in every classroom suffering from a clinically diagnosable mental health condition.

The report suggests that additional funding that is being made available to tackle child mental health should also be funnelled through to schools so that they can bolster their mental health offering.

The four major areas highlighted as barriers to improvement of mental health provision are:

1.       Funding- Schools have been denied access to funding to utilise services that would allow early intervention offerings to be given at the school.

2.       Commissioning and representation- Schools do not have the expertise required to procure the services that are needed locally within the school and as part of the larger geographical area through CCGs.

3.       Quality- The quality of mental health support to schools varies widely from school to school and there is no clear guarantee of the level of quality that can be brought into the school.

4.       Accountability- Ofsted sporadically checks mental health provision so there is no real national picture of all mental health provisions across the country. Despite recent changes to make inspectors refer to pupil’s health and wellbeing still only one in three Ofsted reports mention it.

Funding to assist with early intervention in relation to mental health problems has fallen from £3.2bn in 2010-11 to £250m this year. This reduction in funding has led to a reduction in services that can notice the signs of mental health conditions and schools are now, more than ever, being called upon to provide guidance and support to those children at risk.

Ofsted has always retained the power to inspect schools on the basis of their mental health provision but mental health provision is only mentioned in a third of all reports. In the future mental health provision will form a key part of determining the overall rating of a school, with those schools with substandard provision being unable to gain the highest ratings.

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