Schools: Mental Health and Neurodiversity

Department for Education written question – answered at on 19 February 2024.

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Photo of Anneliese Dodds Anneliese Dodds Party Chair, Labour Party, Chair of Labour Policy Review, Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps her Department is taking to ensure a knowledge of (a) mental health and (b) neurodiversity among (i) school teachers and (ii) school students.

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds Minister of State (Education)

The department is committed to ensuring that all pupils can reach their potential and receive excellent support from their teachers. The Teachers’ Standards sets clear expectations that teachers must understand the needs of all pupils, including those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). Consideration of SEND underpins both the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) Core Content Framework (CCF) and Early Career Framework (ECF) which were both produced with the support of sector experts. ITT courses and ECF-based programmes must be designed so that new teachers can demonstrate that they meet the Teachers’ Standards at the appropriate level. This includes the requirement in Standard 5, that all teachers must have a clear understanding of the needs of all pupils.

The department reviewed the CCF alongside the ECF during 2023, in partnership with the Education Endowment Foundation and groups of sector experts, including SEND specialists. This included a public call for evidence. Following this review, the updated and combined Initial Teacher Training and Early Career Framework (ITTECF) was published on 30 January 2024, for delivery from September 2025.

The department’s review of content for the ITTECF paid particular attention to the needs of trainees and early career teachers (ECTs) when supporting pupils with SEND. There is now significantly more content related to adaptive teaching and supporting pupils with SEND. The department has also made edits to existing statements to improve inclusivity for SEND throughout the framework, including new content for trainees and ECTs on who to contact to provide support with any pupil mental health concerns.

The department is also offering all state schools and colleges a grant to train a senior mental health lead by 2025, enabling them to introduce effective whole school approaches to mental health and wellbeing. Over 14,400 settings have claimed a grant so far, including more than 7 in 10 state-funded secondary schools, and the department has also recently made available second grants for settings who have lost their trained lead. The department’s quality assured training course provides the practical knowledge and skills to implement a whole school or college approach to promoting mental wellbeing. The course also helps senior mental health leads to facilitate the development of school staff, to ensure that all staff can recognise and understand the process to respond to mental health concerns.

The department has also recently launched two new resources to help trained mental health leads and wider school and college staff to promote and support pupil mental health, both of which are hosted on the Mentally Healthy Schools site. The resource hub signposts practical resources and tools to embed whole-school or college approaches and the targeted mental wellbeing toolkit gives practical advice and tools to help schools and colleges identify the most effective targeted support options for their setting. They are both available here:

The department wants to support all young people to be happy, healthy and safe. The department wants to equip them for adult life and to make a positive contribution to society. That is why the department has made Relationships Education compulsory for all primary school pupils, Relationships and Sex Education compulsory for all secondary school pupils from September 2020, and Health Education compulsory for pupils in all state-funded schools. In Health Education, there is a strong focus on mental wellbeing, including a recognition that mental wellbeing and physical health are linked. It is important that pupils understand that good physical health, for both men and women, contributes to good mental wellbeing. The purpose of teaching pupils about mental health is to give them the information they need to make good decisions about their own health and wellbeing, recognise issues in themselves and others and, when issues arise, seek support as early as possible from appropriate sources.

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