The Schools (Mental Health and Wellbeing) Bill
Much has been made of mental health issues in children and young people over recent years. We have now seen steps being made towards supporting pupils’ mental health in (maintained) schools, with the introduction of The Schools (Mental Health and Wellbeing) Bill.
On 6 July 2017, the Bill had its first reading in the House of Lords. Despite this positive start, a date for the second reading (which will see the bill debated) is yet to be set and we still have a long way to go before we see it enacted as law.
What is expected to change?
If the Bill receives Royal Assent it is expected to amend Section 78(1) of the Education Act 2002.
Section 78(1) currently states:
1. The curriculum for a maintained school or maintained nursery school satisfies the requirements of this section if it is a balanced and broadly based curriculum which—
(a) promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society, and
(b) prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life
Enactment of the new proposal would mean the inclusion of:
(c) promotes the mental health and wellbeing of pupils alongside academic attainment.
It could be argued that 78(1)(a) already makes provision for promoting the mental health of pupils in its reference to “mental development”. DfE guidance on supporting pupils with mental health needs in school has also existed for some time (this was due to be reviewed in March 2017 but no updates have been made). All in all, it seems that - whilst perhaps a little repetitious - the latest proposal seeks to enforce the point by ensuring schools are placed under a specific statutory duty to support pupils with mental health needs.
As with Section 78 generally, the proposed wording is not terribly specific. Hopefully, if this amendment is made, we will see accompanying guidance from the DfE as to how it expects schools to implement the provision.
For more information contact Laura Thompson.