The return to school is a vital factor in supporting the mental wellbeing of pupils, in addition to providing more opportunities for physical activity, attendance at school allows social interaction with peers, carers and teachers, which benefits wellbeing. To support this, we have encouraged schools to focus on mental wellbeing as pupils return.
Schools will need to reflect the particular circumstances of their pupils in deciding how to do this. They may wish to provide particular groups of pupils with specific support, including some Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) pupils, given the disproportionate rates of COVID-19 diagnoses and death rates among Black and Asian ethnic groups. There are also emerging indications of the potential for greater mental health and wellbeing impacts on children and young people from BAME groups.
Funding for pastoral support is part of schools’ core funding, which is rising by £2.6 billion in 2020-21, £4.8 billion in 2021-22 and £7.1 billion in 2022-23, compared to 2019-20 funding levels. The government has also announced an additional £650 million ‘catch up’ premium, as part of our wider £1 billion COVID catch-up package, to be shared across all state-funded schools over the 2020-21 academic year. School leaders will have the discretion on how to use this funding to best support their pupils to catch up for lost time which in some cases will include support to parents, carers and children to help them re-engage with learning.
The department has published detailed plans for all children and young people to return to full-time education from September. The guidance highlights the particular need to focus on pastoral support and mental wellbeing as a central part of what schools provide, in order to re-engage them and rebuild social interaction with their friends and teachers. This will involve curriculum provision as well as extra-curricular and pastoral support, and our recently published relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) training module will support teachers with preparation to deliver content on mental health and wellbeing. The guidance for schools is available here:
The department hosted a free webinar for schools on 7 July on delivering the new RSHE curriculum for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities, including supporting their mental wellbeing. The recorded webinar is available, free of charge, on the PSHE Association’s website here:
However, teachers are not mental health professionals and some pupils will need support from specialist services. The government has sent a clear message that NHS mental health services remain open, and we have recently provided over £9 million to leading mental health charities to help them expand and reach those most in need. This includes a number of programmes which specifically support the mental health of children and young people, and all NHS mental health trusts are providing 24/7 open access telephone lines to support people of all ages.