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The ‘low quality’ and ‘ad hoc’ sex and relationships curriculum should be improved and teachers should be better trained to deliver it, a new report has urged today.

The Reform report, backed by two former education Secretaries, says that the £ 400m government funding for school mental health teams will only support 35 per cent of pupils, and warns its impact on mental health outcomes for pupils is not being assessed, which means the Department for Education “cannot assess whether the program represents good value for money. “

Published today, the report – “A Revolution in Mindset” – also argues that the DfE should roll out a mental health survey for pupils in schools to “identify pupils who would benefit from additional support”.

The report comes after an NEU survey Yesterday Suggested that more than a third of teachers had received no training in supporting pupils with the impact of mental ill health with the union claiming teachers were “crying out for help”.

But many teachers have since hit back at the results, arguing that “teachers can’t be expected to solve the problem”.

Primary head Michael Tidd told Tes that while one would object to more training “for anything that’s useful”, it can’t be expected to “solve the problem”.

Mr Tidd also argued that the government needs to “acknowledge the scale of the problem.”

Similarly, today’s report argues that “poor data” and “unambitious targets” will mean limited progress in improving mental health and wellbeing.

The report points out there is “no route for PSHE specific training in initial teacher training (ITT)” and draws on a survey that found three Quarters of teachers say they received no training to support mental health when training to become teachers.

However, Mr Tidd Warns that more training will also “highlight the failings of the system further on where the greater need isn’t being addressed” and Warns giving teachers more responsibility for pupil wellbeing is seen as the “cheap solution”.

They added that while teachers are happy to have more training, they also want to be able to prioritize teaching and learning, not fill the gaps for other people.

Former Education Secretary, Baroness Nicky Morgan said: “As the report makes clear we simply cannot afford, as a Nation, not to step in and to prevent any further deterioration in the mental health of the next generation.”

Report co-author and Reform researcher, Sebastian Rees, said: “Schools are uniquely placed to support young people’s mental health and promote wellbeing, but to achieve this, Government and schools need to develop a much more accurate picture of young people’s needs and whether current interventions are working.

Mental health support teams leaving pupils “unserved”

The Reform report argues that over two Thirds of pupils will be left “unserved” by support as the government’s Flagship £ 400 million program of school-based mental health support teams will reach just 35 per cent of pupils by next year.

It is is also critical of the Government’s failure to evaluate whether the program is actually reducing mental ill health among pupils. This means the “government cannot assess whether the program represents good value for money”.

It adds that training for teachers and increased quality of PSHE is not the only answer, and calls for access to and improving support from both children and young people’s mental health services and schools needs to be increased.

Secondary school English teacher and behavior lead Amy Forrester said the reason people are calling for more mental health training in teachers is “because mental health provision for young people is in tatters” and child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) is “overworked and under funded “.

While she argues that everyone who works with pupils in a school should be Mental Health First Aid trained, to make them “feel more confident in supporting young people with mental health conditions … we cannot pretend that that will have the impact that we need “.

She added that while pupils “can’t get the professional help and support that they need”, “teachers cannot be expected to fill that gap”.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said the union welcomed the proposals from Reform.

Mr Barton added that schools “already monitor overall levels of wellbeing and identify pupils who would benefit from additional support” as well as addressing “mental health through their existing PSHE and pastoral programs”.

But he added that it would be “worth Exploring” how this might be “further strengthened through initial teacher training and curriculum time”.

However, he said that this latter suggestion would have to involve a curriculum review.

He argued that the “big problem facing schools” was “lack of sufficient government funding which makes it difficult to provide pastoral support which matches the level of need”.

“This is compounded by the lack of capacity in the local NHS services for specialist support for young people with complex needs and this situation often leads to very long waiting times.

“The government is endeavoring to address these issues through the rollout of mental health support teams which work with schools, but this is taking too long and we would like to see a much greater sense of urgency.”

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