News digest 18 – 22 September

An update of the Millennium Cohort Study published this week showed high levels of depression amongst 14 year olds, especially young girls. A poll commissioned by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families suggested many primary teachers don’t feel adequately trained to support pupils with mental health problems. Mental health was also the focus of parliamentary questions this week, along with questions on relationships education and covering domestic violence on the curriculum.

25% of girls report depression by the age of 14 according to latest Millennium Cohort Study
The latest Millennium Cohort Study (MSC) found that one in four girls report high levels of depressive symptoms by the age of 14. The study follows a representative group of children born in the UK at the start of the century as they grow up. It also found that 14-year-olds from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to report depressive symptoms than peers from better-off families.

When highlighting this research, the PSHE Association suggested the value of statutory PSHE education in supporting mental health and factors that affect it – including bullying, body image and social media – as part of a broader, whole-school approach.

Anna Freud Centre polls primary teachers about supporting pupils with mental health problems
The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families (AFNCCF) commissioned a YouGov poll from which it concluded that 90% of primary school teachers in England do not feel adequately trained to support children with mental health problems.

Commenting on the results, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said: "We know schools have a vital role to play in promoting pupil wellbeing and in the early identification of children with mental health needs. It is essential that schools are supported by properly funded and well linked-in health and social care services”

Mr Whiteman also reiterated PSHE education’s preventative role and NAHT’s continued commitment to statutory status for the subject: "In the last session of Parliament the government committed to statutory status for PSHE. That's a great step forward in ensuring all pupils in all schools have the opportunity to talk about good mental health. Now we need to make sure that this is followed through."

Written questions

  • Lyn Brown MP asked the Secretary of State three questions about the recommendations made in the Social Mobility Commission’s 2017 Time for Change report. She asked what assessment has been made of 1) “the effect of incentives for teachers to maximise test scores within a narrower curriculum on opportunities for social and emotional learning which are accessible to all children”,  2) “the effect on social mobility of the increase in extra-curricular social and emotional activities where there is a cost attached for parents” and 3) the adequacy of resources available to schools for social and emotional learning activities.” Speaking about PSHE education’s role, Mr Gibb said that “We {the DfE} encourage all schools to offer Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education, ensuring pupils are taught about healthy and respectful relationships and the knowledge required to prepare for adult life” and referenced DfE funded lesson plans produced by the Association to teach about mental health through PSHE. Mr Gibb also mentioned the Children and Social Work Act ‘power’ that enables the Government to make PSHE statutory in all schools “subject to careful consideration”.
  • Ranil Jayawardena asked when the Government plans to consult on statutory guidance on Relationships and Sex Education. Minister Nick Gibb answered that the Department for Education intends to conduct a thorough and wide ranging engagement on Relationships Education and Relationships and Sex Education to determine the content of the regulations and statutory guidance, subject content, school practice and quality of delivery. The Department will shortly set out more details about the engagement process, the timetable and the work to consider age appropriate subject content.
  • Liz Saville Roberts asked whether the Government plans to include domestic violence and violence against women in the school curriculum in England and Wales. Nick Gibb answered that the Government is engaging directly with young people to challenge attitudes about abuse and consent through, for example, the Home Office Disrespect NoBody campaign alongside greater focus on relationships and sex education. (The PSHE Association has worked with the Home Office on a range of guidance materials and lesson plans to support the Disrespect NoBody campaign. These are available to download free here).

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