This paper set out a range of proposals for prevention and early intervention work in (or linked to) schools and colleges. Headers in this response relate to sections in the consultation.
The balance of proposals
RoS acknowledges that in putting forward this Green Paper the government is seeking to address an issue of growing concern to parents, teachers and health services. We know from our supporters and from the available evidence that there is a rise in both the incidence of mental health problems amongst children and young people, and increased prevalence of poor emotional and mental wellbeing.
Wellbeing and mental health are related, but not the same, yet the Government’s proposals appear to miss the distinction between the two. Failing to adequately understand the problem and its root causes means that the proposed solutions are unlikely to be sufficient or effective.
Our supporters include parents, current and former teachers (including those who have left the profession). Our communications reach several thousand people regularly, but not one has indicated their support for these proposals.
As our supporters have noted, the proposals fail in two regards. Firstly they attempt to provide mental health services ‘on the cheap’, Secondly, they fail to address the contributing factors to this malaise that stem from our education system itself: the highly pressurised target and test-dominated culture in our schools which is taking the joy out of learning for pupils, and reducing time and space for attention to creativity, resilience, emotional intelligence and wellbeing.
As is implicit in these proposals, children and young people spend a great deal of time in school and schools are therefore well-placed to identify emerging problems. However it does not follow that school staff should acquire skills and knowledge in mental health, nor that it is appropriate for the teacher/pupil relationship for them to be responsible for carrying out interventions.
Proposal 1: Designated Mental Health leads
The proposal for designated mental health leads does not specify the training that they will be given, how training will be provided consistently across the country, or how training can be rolled out within a reasonable time-frame (2025 is not a reasonable timeframe for a crisis which is already occurring). It is also inadequately funded; nor is it clear how schools which do not currently access the Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund will be supported to access training.
It should also be noted that schools vary enormously in size: from small village primaries of fewer than 100 pupils to large secondaries approaching 2000 pupils. The role of the mental health lead could quickly become untenable in a larger school.
There is a high risk that the designated leads are set up to fail, as prevention and early identification needs a whole school approach not just a tick-box exercise. As one of our supporters put it, the proposals seem like ‘lip service’.
Proposal 2: Mental Health Support Teams
These proposals risk doing nothing more than shifting health waiting lists over to education, where young people will be given unspecified interventions by people with limited training and support.
The Government should explain why it has chosen to propose Mental Health support teams to meet the gap between demand and capacity within CAMHS services, and what other options have been considered. Tier 2 CAMHS workers embedded within schools have previously proved both effective and popular, but there are no longer sufficient resources in health and local authorities to support them. Why re-invent the wheel when what is actually needed is adequate funding?
The paper acknowledges the role of voluntary sector services in meeting the needs of young people with mental health problems who either cannot access statutory services in a timely way or do not meet priority thresholds. However it fails to note that these same services are struggling without the funding they previously received, because of cuts to health and local authority budgets, or that these services are providing support to young people with considerable levels of need. Specialist mental health provision cannot be provided to children in need simply out of goodwill.
Proposal 3: Improving understanding of mental health
We wholeheartedly endorse efforts to promote emotional, mental and physical wellbeing in schools and to promote understanding of mental illness and mental wellbeing (and the distinction between the two). We also support efforts to identify and support groups who are particularly vulnerable, such as children in care. Furthermore as parents we welcome the focus on social media. But platitudes are no substitute for changing educational policy culture, and improving understanding will be of little benefit if incidence continues to rise because of a failure to address contributing factors.
There is no shortage of evidence about the educational and wellbeing benefits of creative approaches, engagement in performing arts and sports, healthy schools approaches or good quality PHSE. But there is reduced opportunity for schools to follow these approaches in the current economic and educational climate. Instead schools have become pressurised environments in which demoralised teachers seek to ensure attainment in core skills at the expense of developing healthy, questioning citizens. Compulsory PHSE would be a step forward, as would reducing the number of superfluous tests which take up valuable time and energy but simply record for league tables what teachers already know about their pupils.
There is a curious tension in the Green Paper: on the one hand it acknowledges the impact of wider societal issues on attachment and thus on wellbeing, but yet fails to acknowledge the impact of its own austerity policies on these societal issues.
What else should be considered?
This Green Paper follows on from previous guidance (from 2016) on, for example, schools employing counselling staff, and on mental health and behaviour. Yet it is not clear how this Green Paper relates to that guidance.
Government should join the dots between education policy, the retention and recruitment crisis in our schools, and the rise in emotional and mental problems in young people of all ages. Failure to address mental health and mental wellbeing will be costly in the long run to both the wellbeing of individuals, their job prospects, and the health service. Whilst we welcome acknowledgement of the need for early intervention, one designated mental health lead per school and a support team providing unspecified interventions represent a wholly inadequate response to the growing crisis in mental health services and the increased stresses experienced by our children. If we are serious about tackling these issues we must take a holistic view and place equal emphasis on prevention. This Green Paper needs to be thoroughly revised to reflect this.
Let us know what do you think…
The government has set out a range of proposals for improving mental health provision for young people. These are set out in a Green Paper titled Transforming Children and Young People’s mental health provision (full document available here). A quick read version is available here.
We know from previous comments on social media that this is an area that interests many of you. So many children and young people have a mental health condition of some sort (1 in 10 currently) that most of us know someone affected in some way. We are also aware that the process of seeking help – for both young people and parents – can be extremely worrying and stressful – and take far too long. We think the government is right to take action in this area, but our concerns are whether they are correctly identifying the factors that give rise to mental ill-health, and whether they have come up with solutions that will actually address the problem. For example, the Green Paper talks about prevention, but is silent about the potential impact of the current high-stakes testing regime on mental wellbeing.
We are keen to find out what RoS supporters think about 1) the proposals in the Green Paper 2) any examples of good or bad practice you know about in your local schools and 3) any other proposals you think should have been included.
We will use your comments (anonymously) to inform the RoS response to the consultation. You can either comment below this post on Facebook, or email us at email@example.com
Please respond by midnight on Monday 26th February.
These are the main proposals:
There are some additional proposals, for example about running pilot schemes aimed at reducing the time it takes to access specialist support, and partnership programmes for young people aged 16-25. For more information go to the full version of the Green Paper.
There are 21 questions in the consultation. Below are seven key questions that we would like to respond to. You can either comment specifically on any (or all!) of these, or just let us know your thoughts more generally.
Questions about the proposal for Mental Health Support Teams
Questions on school policies
What do you think? Let us know
Rescue Schools believes that parents have a voice that needs to be heard in the education debate. But we’re also aware that factors like academisation of schools, frequent changes to testing and exams, and just keeping up with life in general, can make it hard for parents to speak up. So we respond on behalf of parents to government consultations, official reports and so on. To do that effectively, we want to know what you think, and to hear about examples from your own experience. Our first response this year is to the Ofsted report Bold Beginnings, about what schools should be doing in reception. Next (in February) we will be collating a response to the government consultation on mental health provision in schools.
Let’s start at the very beginning…
Imagine your child is about to turn 5. When you think of them at school, do you imagine them sitting quietly in class, pencil in hand, reciting the day’s phonics ready for the next test? Or learning to count through song and ball-games, with a mix of free play and structured activity? Well according to Ofsted, phonics and structured learning are the way forwards.
Late last year Ofsted published their report Bold Beginnings, about teaching in the reception year. It was intended to inform what happens in schools, what happens in inspections, and future government education policy about early years. The report – which was based on a survey of a tiny minority of primary schools – makes recommendations for four groups of people. It suggests that:
Like lots of reports, Bold Beginnings includes recommendations that sound sensible, alongside examples of good practice. For example, consistency of approach is always going to be useful. As is finding ways to reduce the teacher workload associated with assessment. But these points are in the minority. The report advocates a vision for education in which our children spend even less time being children and even more time becoming processors. The voices of the children themselves are completely absent from this report, which also says nothing about how good schools work with parents to help their children engage in this crucial first year of school.
As Michael Rosen has put it, the report makes four-year olds sound like GCSE apprentices on a conveyor belt. Experts including the child development expert Professor Robert Winston, teaching unions, teachers, early years staff, headteachers and leading educationalists have strongly criticised the report, saying that is based on flawed evidence and should be withdrawn. (There’s a shortened version of the letter here in the Guardian.)
What are your experiences of reception, and what do you think children’s experience of their reception year should be? Please let us know what you think.
You can comment below, or send us a message. If you’re reading this on the website and Facebook isn’t for you, do send us an email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Please respond by the 16th February, and we’ll publish our response by the end of February.
Rarely has the joyless state of primary education been more powerfully conveyed than in the grey lists of SATs results, just out. Line upon line of schools, their seven years of educating the next generation reduced to a collection of scores. Some schools have extraordinarily high marks. Others are putting in an ‘acceptable’ score, and then there’s the minority where most of their Year 6 cohort failed the test and have been told they are ‘not secondary school ready”.
Every one of these situations is shocking. In the schools with exceptionally high tests results, one suspects that the school’s entire focus is on SATs preparation, with the drilling and test papers to match. Does that really amount to a preparation for life? One imagines that Nick Gibb, the schools minister, must be thrilled with such an induction, as opposed to a rounded education for life.
As for the middling schools, even here a significant minority of children are failing, and analysis suggests they are most likely to have special educational needs and/or be from disadvantaged homes. How does this promote the government’s goal of social mobility? To quote NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman, the data “confirms what the NAHT has been saying for a long time about social mobility. Raising the Key Stage 2 standard was not going to help close the gap. The issues that underpin inequality reach far beyond the school gates and exist throughout the communities that schools serve.”
So what about the schools where just 20, 30 or 40 per cent of students passed the SATs? How do all the other students feel? How do the teachers feel, as they break the news to most of their class that, in the eyes of the system, they have “failed”? How will the secondary schools manage to turn around these young learners, already condemned at the age of 11? No statutory help is available to them in their new schools. They are likely to be put in lower sets and given GCSE targets on the basis of the results, even though they have only been judged in maths and English. What a travesty of a system. It’s as mad as it is cruel.
Please support our manifesto for change.
Christmas is approaching, and schools across the country are making preparations for shows, parties, and fundraisers. But as we approach the end of term there is a distinct lack of Christmas cheer for our pupils and teachers, and indeed for anyone interested in making sure that all children, regardless of their circumstances, access the education they need to thrive. The autumn budget brought no relief from the rising cost pressures affecting our schools, and last weekend the Social Mobility Commission resigned en masse, on the grounds that there is no capacity in government to actually deliver on improving outcomes for the poorest children in our society and narrowing the gap between the best and worst off.
Many teachers, especially in primary schools, dig into their pockets to buy their pupils a little token at Christmas. But these same teachers are now also having to pay for pencils and other essentials in their classroom on a regular basis, and there is no sign of that coming to an end. These are the same teachers who have endured 7 years of what the government euphemistically calls ‘pay restraint’ (in other words, a pay cut after inflation). Some of these teachers, like their pupils, are having to turn to food banks to get through the day. Yet again, the government has passed up the opportunity to invest in our children’s future, and instead continues to rely on the generosity of public sector workers to deliver public services. The government has cast itself as Scrooge, so far without redemption. Let’s hope the spirit of Christmas future visits before it is too late.
The Government has once again shown that it is out of touch with the concerns of parents and voters in every community who are calling for the investment in our schools which we were promised.
Targeting funding at A Level maths students does nothing to address the funding shortfalls that are afflicting every pupil in every classroom in the country. Rather than tinkering around the edges with gimmicky ideas from clueless special advisors, the government needs to listen to the views of parents – the service users – who are fed up with cuts to our schools.
Our school communities will remain united – parents standing with school leaders and staff – to fight for fair funding for all of our schools. If the Chancellor wishes to prepare our people to meet the challenges ahead he should invest in our children and our schools: our country’s future.
RoS is very concerned about Teresa May’s intention to remove the ban on establishing new grammar schools. Grammar schools are based on the assumption that separating out children with particular abilities will help them achieve better results regardless of their background. However there is a wealth of evidence that although children in grammar schools tend to do well, they are children who would do well in comprehensives anyway; grammar schools do not improve standards overall. Grammar schools were largely abolished in the last century because it was widely accepted children develop at differing rates, so assessing them at 11 was unfair and, overall, not in their best interests. And as Sir Michael Wilshaw has noted, grammar schools do not improve social mobility because children whose parents can afford private schooling or tutoring are more likely to pass the 11+ test.
Selection at age 11 can be highly stressful for children and parents. We believe that this is neither emotionally or socially beneficial for our children. Politicians focus only on the supposed benefits of grammar schools to those children who pass the 11+, but they need also to consider the impact of selection on the children and families who do not get a grammar school place.
Many grammar schools are good schools, but the selection system is socially divisive and undermines comprehensives in the surrounding area, depriving them of ambitious students who can inspire others. Our school system is already facing unprecedented challenges due to the government’s White Paper and the reduction in school budgets. RoS fears that re-igniting the debate about grammar schools will provide yet another distraction for parents and schools to deal with at a time when we most need the new prime minister and education secretary to be focused on the challenges already facing our schools.
Rescue Our Schools shares the concerns of the NUT about the way in which Nicky Morgan has presided over the Department for Education. Their sweeping policy changes fly in the face of expert advice and have caused teachers, families and pupils much distress. The department has failed to show financial accountability to the Treasury at a time when it is increasing demands for accountability throughout the education system, and the Secretary of State has failed to secure the confidence of the Education Committee over her choice for the new head of OFSTED. This year’s SATS tests for 11 year olds have been pushed through despite clear evidence they would disserve both children and schools. No civilised country writes off half its young children in this way through poorly conceived tests that may damage’s children’s confidence permanently. We remain committed to seeking a constructive dialogue with the Department for Education about the way forward. But if the Secretary of State for Education shows no desire to listen to the concerns of parents and professionals, we share the NUT’s view that it is time for a change at the top.
Nicky Morgan has failed our kids, she should resign. Sign the petition here
Rescue Our Schools supports the proposed strike by members of the National Union of Teachers on Tuesday July 5th. The union is striking against cuts in government spending in schools: as parents we are already feeling the effects of this. Staff are being cut and not replaced, meaning bigger class sizes and less individual attention for children.
The situation is likely to get worse in many areas under proposed funding changes in the government’s White Paper. Meanwhile, the government still intends all schools to become academies, diverting cash from classrooms to go on lawyers’ fees.
The union is also striking against plans to break up the national system of pay and conditions for teachers. Rescue Our Schools believes this will cause teacher shortages, as more staff leave because of unacceptable working conditions.
We wish teachers did not have to strike, but we believe that it is justified if it makes the government sit up and listen.
If you feel the same way, please join us at the demonstration in London next Tuesday from 12 noon. Love to meet some of you.
Here’s LKBK’s statement regarding the teacher strike. Press please use it to counteract any negativity! Love not hate please for teachers!
“Parents are supportive of the NUT Teachers’ Strike on 5th July. Parents supporting the Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign know the external pressures that teachers face day in day out to meet Government targets re paperwork and assessment. Parents recognise the dangers associated with performance related pay and the unnecessary pressure this passes down to our children. Parents are very aware that trade union laws mean teachers can only strike over pay and conditions and are equally aware of how teachers feel in their hearts about issues affecting the mental health and general well being of the children they teach. Parents are delighted that teachers are taking action and are not standing by allowing this DfE to press ahead with plans so widely recognised as being damaging to the education system in this country”
Press Release 17 May 2016
Key parents’ campaign groups are uniting for the first time against education policies expected in the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday May 18th. The campaigners – some galvanised since the Education White Paper – want local, publicly accountable, inclusive & collaborative schools with parent governors & qualified teachers for ALL children. The groups – both national and local – are encouraging pop-up Play Ball Nicky! picnics with ball games after school on Wednesday May 18th to coincide with the speech.
The statement from Rescue Our Schools, Hands off our Schools Brighton and Hove, Matlock and Derbyshire Anti-Academies, South Bank Academies Campaign and John Roan Resists reads:
“We want to send a strong message to the Department for Education to play ball and listen. We object to four key proposals:
Forced Academisation: the government is still set on forced academisation where schools or local authorities are considered inadequate or if there are not enough community schools left in a given area. It is disrespectful to ride roughshod over the views of local communities and there remains no evidence that academisation improves schools or ensures proper scrutiny.
Removing Elected Parent Governors: we object to plans to remove the requirement for schools to have parent governors elected by the school community, because it will fundamentally undermine schools’ accountability to parents. Requiring governors to pass a skills test will discourage people from all walks of life from making an invaluable contribution to their school.
The “Fair Funding Formula”: plans to change pupil funding mean that areas with challenging social conditions could face cuts of up to 14 per cent. This will result in no extra support for students who need it or enrichment activities for all, and undermine the success of projects such as the internationally recognised London Challenge. We agree that areas that have traditionally been underfunded should get more money, but this should be new money. As parents we are all in this together: it is not right to rob Peter to pay Paul.
Teacher Qualifications: we have deep reservations about changes to teacher qualifications which we fear will undermine confidence in the profession.
We think the government’s proposals will damage education. This is a fight we can only win together – so let’s have fun doing it. Please join us at a Play Ball Nicky picnic near you or set one up yourself.”
Press Release 9 May 2016
As thousands of ten and eleven year olds take SATS this week, parents are calling for their children’s mental health to be monitored alongside their academic progress. The independent, parent-led campaign group Rescue Our Schools is launching the petition – which is being backed by the Fast Show actor and state school supporter Arabella Weir.
Rescue Our Schools, which was formed last month, wants the government to work with parents and experts to monitor children year on year to assess the impact of the pressures they are under. It points to evidence that mental health issues are rising at the same time as successive governments request more data on children’s school progress, with ever more challenging tests and exams.
Arabella Weir said: “As a parent I have watched with dread the increasingly heavy pressure applied to testing children with exams and tests. It is often too much for them to cope with on top of starting school, learning new things and finding their way in a whole new world. We need to know just how big the problem is so that we can do something about it. It is vital that we stop judging education simply by academic results. We don’t need robots – we need rounded, creative individuals who can cope with all aspects of life and its challenges, so many of which can’t be judged in an exam.”
The last official survey of children’s mental health was in 2004. Another one is due next year, with others scheduled to follow every seven years. Rescue Our Schools says that’s not enough – and simple, existing screening questionnaires could be used to better inform policy.
Rescue Our Schools was set up to represent families and communities standing up for state education in the wake of the government’s Education White Paper. It welcomes support from anyone who believes in high quality state education which is accountable to the local community, especially parents.
Sign the Petition here
Press Release 9 May 2016.
Rescue Our Schools welcomes the governments apparent U-turn on plans to use legislation to force all schools to become Academies by 2022. It is testament to the power of a united and vocal opposition – comprised of parents, teachers, support staff, community members and politicians of all parties – that the government have been forced to change tack. However, whilst significant, it is one victory in a far larger campaign and the government has made it clear that it still wants all schools to convert to Academies.
The threat of legislation to force ALL schools may have been lifted, but there remain many ways in which schools can be forced to Academise: Regional Schools Commissioners have the legal power to compel ‘failing’ or ‘coasting’ schools to convert; legislation will still be brought forward to force conversions in Local Authority areas deemed to be ‘unsuccessful’ or where ‘too many’ other schools have already converted; enormous pressure is being placed on school leaderships & governing bodies to ‘choose’ conversion; huge reductions in the Education Services Grant are crippling Local Authority’s ability to provide services to schools; schools fear being ‘left behind’ if other schools in their area convert, even when they do not think conversion is their best option; some school leaderships are choosing to convert against the wishes of parents and the local community – forcing their choice to convert upon them.
Rescue Our Schools opposes forced Academisation in all circumstances and will continue to fight against it. Events this week have demonstrated that standing together we are stronger. Now is the time to stand up for the education system we want for our children. Join us!
Press Release 29 April 2016
Rescue Our Schools believes that the primary curriculum is becoming alarmingly skewed towards high stakes tests. It is depriving children of the creative experiences they so desperately need throughout their education and takes the wonder out of learning. Standardised testing can cause anxiety and stress in very young students, setting up patterns of failure that stay with them for life. We accept the need for accountability but would like to see more trust in assessment by teachers themselves.
Rescue Our Schools also opposes the new way of marking Year 6 SATS which amount to a pass or fail system – students will either meet the expected standard or not. We also oppose plans to require failing children to resit the SATS in Year 7. We believe both these measures will stigmatise children who fail and damage their confidence. We identify strongly with the frustration behind the Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign but think it is an individual decision whether parents choose to participate in the Children’s Strike on May 3rd.
Press Release 16 April 2016
Parents and children marched together today to show solidarity against forced academisation of schools, ditching elected parent governors and funding cuts in deprived areas. Many of the families were from Yerbury school in North London, which is in the Tatler’s Best Schools Guide 2016. Parents from the school are leading the Rescue Our Schools campaign along with others across England.
One of the organisers, Madeleine, spoke in Trafalgar Square. She said: “After the recent announcements on education, enough is enough. Rescue Our Schools is not party political, it is parent political. It is time for parents to get organised in cities, towns and villages throughout England and speak out with one voice.”(Edit)