I will come on to the Government’s proposals in a moment, but yes, I do call that a step in the right direction.
To come back to the thrust of the debate, what does my speech so far have to do with mental health? Lisa, a mum of three children in my constituency, writes:
“I had a chat with my 6-year old’s teacher about the amount of homework they get. Her response was that parents needed to see the SATS papers the children would have to sit in May. They would then understand how much work the children needed to do to reach the expected standard. The problem with the ‘expected standard’ is that it only looks at certain aspects of the curriculum and then puts children into boxes”.
If they do not meet that expected standard, they can only interpret that they have failed. Lisa goes on to say that
“putting children in boxes which suit a government body is, in my humble belief, creating mental health issues at a very early age.”
I would like our debate to focus on that toxic culture.
Let me move on to what the Government have announced. We now have a plan, at least, which I would call a step in the right direction, although it is not sufficient. We are looking at having health professionals in schools—a massive workforce of thousands. My question, which was shared with some scepticism during the Public Accounts Committee inquiry, is where those professionals will come from. The professionals whose roles we are looking to create are the same people we cannot get for nursing or midwifery, because it is the same type of person who might want to do the job.
I am seriously concerned that we are creating a parallel system, while the problem could have been solved by having school nurses in the first place. To return to the subject of funding cuts, school nurses were a valuable part of schools’ wider pastoral care. Many schools have lost their school nurses, which is a crying shame.