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Eton College has called for urgent action to tackle the growing mental health crisis facing schools across the country.

The School voiced concerns alongside other members of the Coalition for Youth Mental Health in Schools, which published a new report on Wednesday 13 December to examine how the education sector can respond to growing challenges around supporting pupils’ mental health. 

The coalition is made up of school leaders from some of the most high-profile state and independent schools in the country, who have united to warn that vulnerable children are being let down because of delays in being able to access mental health services. 

The group, which published its first report in 2021 highlighting the difficulties facing young people in the wake of the pandemic, has said its calls then for urgent action have gone unanswered. 

Alice Vicary-Stott, Director of Safeguarding at Eton College, said: “Coming from a Social Work background, I am all too familiar with the constraints on public services and the increasing need for well-funded and effective provision for children who are struggling. I hope this report will encourage the Government to ensure every child in every school can access the correct support for their individual mental health needs. Staff need to feel empowered to support children and be able to point them to available and appropriate services.

“It has been a privilege to work alongside so many exceptional schools and trusts, and to contribute to such a worthwhile report. It was a pleasure welcoming the Coalition to Eton College, where they met our therapeutic support staff who work closely with our pupils to support their emotional and mental health.”

The Coalition is made up of Alleyn’s School, Danes Educational Trust, Eton College, Lady Eleanor Holles School, Oasis Community Learning, Reach Academy Feltham, Star Academies, St Paul’s School and Wellington College. 

In a joint statement, the Coalition’s school leaders said: “Two years on, vulnerable students are still being let down by delays in the system and insufficient availability of care. And while there is a colossal effort underway in schools to tackle these challenges, there are still too many hurdles for too many pupils when it comes to accessing mental health support. 

“Our new report Solutions for a Crisis gets to the heart of how schools – making the very best of what is available to them – are tackling the crisis. But while our research demonstrates how schools-based interventions can have a positive impact, we must stress that these measures should not preclude access to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in the community. 

“The state of mental health provision in our country has reached a tipping point. We are keen that no teacher or school finds themselves unsupported when it comes to protecting their children’s mental health. We encourage the Government to address the mental health epidemic across the country, so that we can take action together so all our young people, wherever they are, can flourish.” 

The latest report, called ‘Solutions for a Crisis’, highlights the good work going on in schools to support pupils, but the report’s authors warn delays in accessing child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in the community is putting a strain on education providers. 

The Coalition makes several recommendations to the Government, including introducing mandatory waiting time targets so children and young people can access mental health support more quickly. 

In certain instances, researchers found that pupils using in-school counselling services were pushed down CAMHS waiting lists. This puts schools in a challenging position, forcing them to decide between offering interim support or postponing it in the anticipation that the pupil might be able to access specialised assistance sooner. 

Waiting times have increased by two-thirds in two years to an average of 21-weeks, as revealed by The House magazine in April following a series of freedom of information requests. 

Research agency Public First organised a series of school observations sessions, expert interviews and a review of the available evidence to support the Coalition members in making its recommendations, which include calls for teacher training to incorporate mental health education, proposals to establish a national network of wellbeing supervisors and setting up a National Survey of Youth Mental Health.