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Schools 'must be helped to focus more on pupils' wellbeing'

03/05/2017 Joanna

The mental health and wellbeing of school students must be considered a greater priority in national education policy, according to MPs.

As part of a joint inquiry into children and young people's mental health, the cross-party Health and Education Committees have called for the next government to ensure that the provision of mental health services in schools and colleges are considered a key area of focus after the general election.

Both committees welcome the recent commitment to make personal, social, health and economic education mandatory, but stated that the promotion of wellbeing cannot be confined to these lessons, noting that more must be done to support the provision of dedicated mental health services, such as in-school counsellors.

Overall, a "whole-school approach" to wellbeing was encouraged, including changes within the curriculum and the training and continuing professional development of teachers and support staff, as well as making sure this issue is reflected in Ofsted's inspection regime and reporting.

Strong partnerships between the education sector and mental health services were highlighted as a goal, as well as concerted efforts to tackle the associations between excessive social media use and sleep deprivation and depression in children and young people.

Part of this will be to make sure that social media providers are held responsible for protecting younger users from harmful content that may affects their online safety and wellbeing, the report noted.

Committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston said: "With half of all mental illness starting before the age of 15, and three-quarters by aged 18, the government and educators must ensure sufficient time is allowed for activities in schools and colleges that develop the lifelong skills children and young people need to support their wellbeing."

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