New Action Group formed to support mental health education

The Mental Health Action Group met for the first time on Tuesday 9 March, to look at the impact of the pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of children, young people and education staff across England.   

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, was joined by ministers from across Government, as well as Youth Mental Health Ambassador, Dr Alex George, to discuss how best to respond to the mental health issues of greatest concern including the increase in eating disorders and self-harm among young people, and how to help education staff manage their mental wellbeing. 

The coalition agreed to take forward more action across a range of areas, including boosting the support available to help children and young people move between schools and year groups, and looking at how schools and colleges can target funding and recovery support to ensure that support reaches pupils who need it the most. 

The meeting builds on the Government’s commitment to ensure millions more children and young people have access to specialist support, including significantly expanded mental health services, backed by an additional £79 million. 

The number of Mental Health Support Teams – which provide early intervention on mental health and emotional wellbeing issues in schools and colleges – will grow from the 59 set up by last March to around 400 by April 2023, supporting nearly three million children and young people. 

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Getting young people back into schools and colleges has been a national priority, not just because of the significant benefits to their education but because of the benefit to their wellbeing as well. Across society the sacrifices we have all had to make to battle to pandemic has had an impact on wellbeing and mental health, and this is especially true for young people who have had to sacrifice so much over the last year. 

“The important work of this Mental Health Action Group will build on the significant investment we have already put into mental health in education, through training for teachers, our new health education curriculum and expert teams in schools and colleges. Today’s meeting highlights the cross-government approach we are taking to make sure we continue to support staff and students.”  

Jointly chaired by the Education Secretary, Minister for Children and Families Vicky Ford and Universities Minister Michelle Donelan, the first meeting of the action group comes as millions of children and young people reunite with friends, classmates and their teachers, returning to the classroom with mental health and wellbeing at the centre of Government plans to enable all pupils to settle back into their daily routines.   

Youth Mental Health Ambassador Dr Alex George said: “Young people in this country have shown incredible resilience during the pandemic, but we need to recognise that many have struggled with their mental health. 

“Schools can play a vital role in a young person’s development and wellbeing, and the extra investment for Mental Health Support Teams will make a huge difference. 

He continued: “I want every young person in this country to know that they can speak out and access support when they need it and I will continue working closely with the Government on this important work.” 

Education staff will be supported to respond to the emotional and mental health pressures some children and young people may be feeling as a result of COVID-19 as they return to school by the Wellbeing for Education Return programme backed by £8 million, and free online psychological training modules on how to provide practical and emotional support to children and young people affected by emergencies or crisis situations.  

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