Education Committee

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:04 pm on 14th July 2022.

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Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee 12:04 pm, 14th July 2022

The hon. Gentleman makes some very powerful points. Sadly, we have a mental ill health epidemic among young people in our country, especially since covid. The Committee has done a previous report on mental health, working jointly with the Health and Social Care Committee. The Government are doing some good things, but I believe they need to rocket-boost the programme to have mental health counsellors in all schools, and we need to do more to teach children resilience. I have proposed a levy on social media companies, which I think are responsible for a lot of these issues, especially companies such as TikTok. That levy would raise money to fund mental health resilience programmes in schools.

I also believe in a longer school day: not children learning algebra until 8 pm—although I do not know whether the new Schools Minister, my hon. Friend Will Quince, would like that—but children being able to do arts, wellbeing and sporting activities, which all the evidence shows improves not just their mental health but their academic attainment. We need mental health counsellors in schools, because obviously some looked-after children—although not all—will need extra support, which is lacking. We in this country need to get a real grip through our education policy on the damage that children have suffered because they have been shut at home for two years on and off, and come up with a proper, serious, well-funded mental health strategy for young children. The damage we have done to their educational attainment, life chances, mental health and safeguarding has been enormous, and of course the most vulnerable children—many of them looked- after children—have suffered the most.