Schools: Counselling

Department for Education written question – answered on 23rd April 2021.

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Photo of Rosena Allin-Khan Rosena Allin-Khan Shadow Minister (Mental Health)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of schools providing in-school counselling support as part of a whole school approach to mental health.

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

The department recognises that counselling can play a particularly effective role as part of a whole-school or college approach, and that many schools already provide their pupils access to counselling support.

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 children with special educational needs and disabilities, looked after children and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, who have a higher prevalence to mental illness, can access counselling provision.  Further guidance on counselling in schools can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/counselling-in-schools.

However, the department has not made the provision of access to counselling in schools and colleges mandatory, as it is important for schools to have the freedom to decide what support to offer their pupils, 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.

The government has invested £8 million in the new Wellbeing for Education Return programme which funded expert advisers who offered training and support to schools and colleges and made links to local support available, including, potentially, 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 ended 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.

We have recently announced a £79 million boost to children and young people’s mental health support, accelerating introduction of Mental Health Support Teams. The support teams, which provide early intervention on mental health and emotional wellbeing issues in schools and colleges, will grow from the 59 set up by last March to around 400 by April 2023, supporting nearly 3 million children. This increase means that millions of children and young people will have access to significantly expanded mental health services.

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