To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made (a) of the number of schools without direct access to in-school counsellors to support children’s and young people’s mental health and well-being in schools and colleges and (b) how such provision varies by local authority.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the availability of in-school counsellors to provide face-to-face mental health support for teachers and staff in schools and colleges.
We do not collect regular information on the provision of counselling in schools or colleges for pupils and staff. Our most recent survey of mental health provision in schools and colleges published in 2017 found that 61% of schools and colleges (56% of primary schools, 84% of secondary schools and 93% of colleges) reported offering access to counselling service for their pupils.
Counselling can play a particularly effective role as part of a whole-school or college approach. Many schools already provide their pupils access to counselling support. It is important for schools and colleges to have the freedom to decide what support to offer to students and staff based on their particular needs and drawing on an evidence base of effective practice. This support can come from a number of sources, including counselling.
To support the provision of counselling support in schools, the department published a blueprint for school counselling services. This provides schools with practical, evidence-based advice, informed by schools and counselling experts, on how to deliver high quality school-based counselling. It also offers information on how to ensure that vulnerable children, including those who have special educational needs and disabilities, are looked after children or identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, who have a higher prevalence to mental illness, can access counselling provision. Further guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/counselling-in-schools.
The government is investing £8 million in the new Wellbeing for Education Return programme which is funding expert advisers who will be able to train and support schools and colleges in every area of England and can make links to available local authority provision, including counselling. Alongside this, the department launched a £95,000 pilot led by the Education Support charity to provide online peer support and telephone counselling from experts to around 250 school leaders. The pilot will end in March 2021. The outcome of the pilot will inform any future wellbeing and mental health interventions for staff.
To increase support further in the long term, we remain committed to our joint green paper delivery programme with the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England, including introducing new mental health support teams linked to schools and colleges, providing training for senior mental health leads in schools and colleges, and testing approaches to faster access to NHS specialist support.