Schools: Mental health services

Department for Education written question – answered at on 22 May 2024.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps her Department is taking to help provide mental health support in schools for young people suffering from eating disorders.

Photo of David Johnston David Johnston The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

Education is a devolved matter, and the response outlines the information for England only.

Having an eating disorder can often be devastating for young people suffering with the condition, as well as for those around them, which is why the department wants to ensure they have access to the right support, in the right place and at the right time.

Schools play a vital role in children’s mental health by promoting wellbeing and providing early targeted support and the department is committed to helping them do so effectively.

The department’s statutory health education curriculum, which should be taught in all schools from primary, includes a strong focus on mental health. This includes teaching pupils how to identify the early signs of mental wellbeing concerns and where and how to seek support if they are worried about their own or someone else’s mental health. As part of the secondary health curriculum, schools can teach pupils how to be safe and healthy and manage their lives in a positive way, seeking support when needed. They can also teach about eating disorders, drawing on qualified support or advice as needed for this specialist area. The statutory guidance for relationships, sex and health education is currently under review. The department will be carrying out a full public consultation on the new guidance as soon as possible, and will be considering what more the department can do to strengthen content on eating disorders.

Early intervention is key when a child or young person is experiencing a mental health issue, including problems with eating. To expand access to early mental health support, including supporting schools in liaising with specialist services regarding eating disorders, the department is continuing to roll out Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) to schools and colleges. As of April 2024, MHSTs now cover 44% of pupils in schools and learners in further education in England. The department is extending coverage of MHSTs to at least 50% of pupils and learners by the end of March 2025.

Since 2016, extra funding has also gone into children and young people's community eating disorder services every year, with £53 million per year from 2021/22, rising to £54 million in 2023/24.

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