Students: Mental Health

Department for Education written question – answered on 18th September 2020.

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Photo of Tom Hunt Tom Hunt Conservative, Ipswich

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to support the mental health of students affected by summer 2020’s exam results.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

On Monday 17 August, Ofqual confirmed that there no longer would be a standardisation process for AS and A levels or GCSEs. Instead, all students will be awarded the centre assessment grade submitted by their school or college, unless it is lower than their calculated grade, in which case the calculated grade will stand. Unless there is evidence that a processing error has been made, these grades will be final. This means that students can be certain about their grades as a basis for the next steps in their lives.

Individual young people's mental wellbeing is affected in different ways by issues in their lives. It is important that they receive support where they need it, including from their school. The government has provided a wide range of training and resources to schools and colleges to help them support the wellbeing of their pupils. This includes launching the Wellbeing for Education Return programme which is providing £8 million to local authorities to provide schools and colleges all over England with the knowledge and practical skills they need to support teachers, students and parents, to help improve how they respond to the emotional impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. The training materials include examples of supporting students around loss and disappointment, including over exam results.

This is additional to longer term work to improve support, including the new mental health support teams that we are rolling out across the country, linked to schools and colleges.

The Office for Students (OfS) have provided up to £3 million to fund the Student Space platform to bridge gaps in mental health support for students. Student Space is a collaborative mental health resource to support students at English and Welsh universities through the unique circumstances created by the COVID-19 outbreak. It provides a range of information, access to dedicated support services (phone or text), details of the support available at each university, and tools to help students manage the challenges of student life.

The government has also worked closely with the OfS to help clarify that higher education providers can draw upon existing funding to provide hardship funds and support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19. Providers are able to use the OfS student premium funding worth around £256 million for 2020-21 academic year starting from August towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of mental health support.

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