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Mental health support should be included in Ofsted Inspections

April 6, 2019 6:18 PM

Dr Wendy TaylorThe Liberal Democrats have written to the Chief Inspector of Ofsted to urge her to include assessments of mental health support in schools in Ofsted Inspections.

The Liberal Democrat lead on Mental Health, Claire Tyler, has written to the Chief Inspector as the new draft Ofsted framework does not include assessment of the work that schools and colleges do in promoting or supporting the mental health of students.

The Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Health, Judith Jolly, and Liberal Democrats Lords Spokesperson on Education, Mike Storey have also signed the letter.

Commenting on the letter, Newcastle Liberal Democrats lead on health issues Cllr Dr Wendy Taylor (pictured) said:

"Teachers are often among the first to notice the signs that a pupil may be developing a mental health problem. Considering this and the fact the Tories are refusing to fund mental health support properly, it is important to assess schools on how they support children and young people's wellbeing.

"The Ofsted inspection framework has a significant influence on school priorities. Liberal Democrats are clear that by strengthening the framework, school leaders will be more likely to prioritise plans to improve the mental health support for pupils.

"The Liberal Democrats have always taken the lead in championing mental health. The mental health of children and young people must be a key area of concern for schools and therefore I urge Ofsted to recognise and assess the role of schools in supporting young people's mental health."



The letter from Claire Tyler, Judith Jolly and Mike Storey is as follows:

Dear Ms Spielman,

We are writing to you as Liberal Democrat members of the House of Lords with a strong interest in children's mental health. We are keen to see transformational improvement in children's mental health care, and have been interested in the work of YoungMinds 'Wise Up!' campaign.

We believe that the draft Education Inspection Framework would be significantly strengthened if it recognises and assesses the role of educational providers in promoting and supporting children and young people's mental health and wellbeing.

School life has a major impact on the wellbeing of pupils, and school staff are often among the first to notice the signs that a pupil may be developing a mental health problem. Recent mental health and education policy, including the proposals included within the Green Paper on Children and Young People's Mental Health, has recognised the crucial role that schools and colleges can play in promoting good mental health, preventing the development of mental health problems, and in ensuring young people can access support when problems first emerge.

The Ofsted inspection framework has a significant influence on school priorities, and the lack of recognition for approaches to promoting or supporting mental health all too often acts as a disincentive for school leaders to prioritise such approaches within development or improvement plans, particularly when resources are scarce.

We are pleased that the new draft Ofsted framework includes a reduced focus on exam grades and assessment. However, we are am concerned at the lack of focus within the framework on assessing the work that schools and colleges do in promoting or supporting the mental health of students.

We support the findings of the joint inquiry by the Health and Education Select Committees, and the thematic review by the Care Quality Commission, and believe that Ofsted should assess and recognise the effectiveness of schools and academies in supporting children and young people's wellbeing.

In particular, we think that the Education Inspection Framework should make it clear to inspectors, school staff, children and families that inspections will include an independent assessment of the extent to which:

  • The provider adopts a whole-school approach to wellbeing, in line with Departmental best-practice guidance. This would include the extent to which the provider creates a whole school culture and positive learning environment which fosters resilience, wellbeing, and healthy development.
  • The provider has a culture that encourages effective arrangements to identify learners who may need early help in relation to mental health needs, and to reduce their risk of harm by securing the support they need, or referring in a timely way to those who have the expertise to help.
  • The provider is equipped to identify when learners' behaviour is indicative of mental health needs or underlying issues, and to co-ordinate appropriate support in line with the Department for Education best-practice guidance, Mental Health and Behaviour in Schools (Nov 2018).

We believe that strengthening the focus on mental health within inspections will drive improvement in school and college approaches, and reinforce the recent Government reforms.

We feel there is widespread agreement that the mental health of children and young people is a key area of concern for schools in terms of their pupils' well-being and subsequent potential, and therefore a matter that should be taken very seriously. We would therefore strongly recommend that the revised Education Inspection Framework places more emphasis on the vital work that schools and colleges do to promote and support the mental health of students. It would be beneficial not only to the students but to schools and their performance goals alike.

Yours sincerely,

Baroness Tyler of Enfield
Baroness Jolly
Lord Storey