Government’s Education Catch-up and Mental Health Recovery Programmes

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:45 pm on 3rd February 2022.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Flick Drummond Flick Drummond Conservative, Meon Valley 2:45 pm, 3rd February 2022

There is no doubt that lockdown has had a major impact on children’s wellbeing, but it has given us an appreciation of the amazing work that teachers do. Once again, I want to pay tribute to every headteacher, teacher and support staff member in Meon Valley. I have been really impressed by the way they have coped in very difficult times. I am also very grateful to my right hon. Friend Robert Halfon, the Chair of the Education Committee, for securing this debate, as it brings forward many thoughts about how we can best help our children and young people in schools and colleges.

The pandemic has been hugely disruptive to education and there is no doubt that pupils’ mental health issues have increased, especially in secondary schools. I suggest that even before the pandemic mental health and children’s happiness was already becoming an issue. “The Good Childhood Report”, published in August 2020 by The Children’s Society, which looked at the happiness and mental health of 15-year-olds, had observed a notable increase in the proportion of children with low wellbeing—18% had low wellbeing, compared with figures of 11% to 13% in previous years. England ranked 36th out of 45 countries in Europe and North America for young people’s life satisfaction. We had the largest reduction in life satisfaction between 2015 and 2018 out of all participating countries. That is really not acceptable.

The “State of the nation 2020: children and young people’s wellbeing” report points out:

“Children’s wellbeing and their mental health can have a real impact on their development into their full potential both now and as a tool in their futures.”

The report shows a sustained dip in happiness with school and there is strong evidence that fear of failure in 15-year-olds is intrinsically linked to education. I reported about this in my “One Nation” paper on education, as there was evidence that our education and assessment system is no longer fit for purpose and is not preparing our young people adequately for a life of work. We have now heard from The Times Education Commission and the independent assessment report from the National Education Union, which provide more insight into what we can do to improve our curriculum. I think that will improve young people’s views on school and their mental health, and I will come back to that in a moment.

Hampshire’s local authority has created mental health support teams, which my local schools are finding very useful and should be a model the Government should look to continue to invest in, if not put further investment in, as child and adolescent mental health services are overwhelmed.