Your Weekly Sector News 10/03/23

Read ahead to find out about the latest trends and sector developments. This week, we reflect on the crisis in children’s mental health services, equal access to sports, and the prospect of further strike action in schools.
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Children’s Commissioner calls for reforms to children’s mental health services

This week, the Children’s Commissioner released a report outlining the crisis in mental health services for children and young people. The report points to evidence from the NHS which shows the rates of children with probable mental health disorders have increased significantly since 2017. In that time, the rate for 7 to 16 year olds has risen from 12.1 percent to 18 percent in 2022. For 17 to 19 year olds, the rate has more than doubled, increasing from 10.1 to 25.7 percent.

The Children’s Commissioner expresses concern that ‘existing NHS service capacity and infrastructure may not be able to cope with the additional pressure.’ The report shows that last year, a third of children referred to mental health services did not receive treatment. Further investigation shows huge variation across the country, as the proportion of children who did not receive treatment ranges from 5 percent in East Sussex to 50 percent in North Cumbria.

With this in mind, the report recommends that Mental Health Support Teams (MHST) are rolled out to every school by 2025. Previously, it was recommended by the Health and Social Care Committee that the government fully fund and scale up the roll out of MHST to cover all schools by 2027/28. But the government explained the roll out of MHSTs beyond 2023 is ‘contingent upon future funding settlements.’

The Children’s Commissioner also noted that schools play a vital role in shaping, identifying and addressing children’s mental health. In light of this, she says ‘schools should become the fourth statutory safeguarding partner,’ enabling them to feed into Integrated Care Partnerships.

Unions to ballot school support staff on strike action

Unions have rejected a flat pay offer of £1,925 for school support staff, claiming that the deal ‘falls short of what’s needed.’ Together, unions had called for a pay rise of 12.7 percent for the forthcoming year, amounting to 2 percent above projected inflation. The current offer of £1,925 equates to a 9 percent rise for the lowest paid, but only 4 percent for other staff.

Unison, representing more than 250,000 support staff, now plans to ballot members to see if they are prepared to strike for a better pay deal. Similarly, GMB is set to ballot 100,000 members later this month. GMB urges workers to reject the pay offer, in which case they will move to a full strike vote. Sharon Wilde, GMB National Officer, says ‘simply put, this deal isn’t enough to make up for a decade of austerity, followed by a cost-of-living crisis.’

Unite has also rejected the offer, warning that local government employers need to enter full pay negotiations if they want to avoid industrial action. However, when the National Employers met with unions earlier this week, they reaffirmed their offer as full and final. The National Employers state ‘the offer is fair to employees, given the wider economic backdrop.’

Government pledges equal access to sports in school

As we marked International Women’s Day on 8 March, the government announced that it is setting out new standards for equal access to sports in school, ensuring that girls and boys are offered the same opportunities in PE and extracurricular sports. The government also asks schools to deliver a minimum of two hours PE each week, with more support being offered through an update to the School Sport Action Plan.

This is backed by an extra two years of primary PE and sport premium funding, worth over £600 million, as well as £22 million for the School Game Organisers (SGO) network. A further £57 million will be used to keep school sports facilities open outside of school hours, especially targeted at girls, disadvantaged pupils, and children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

These measures follow a campaign launched by the Lionesses after winning the World Cup last summer. The Prime Minister says ‘we want schools to build on this legacy and give every girl the opportunity to do the same sports as boys.’ Schools that successfully deliver equal sporting opportunities for girls and boys will now be rewarded through the Schools Games Mark.

Union leaders have welcomed the announcement, but warn ‘schools are already dealing with a crammed curriculum and many school leaders will be questioning how they will be able to fit this in with all the other pressures they are facing.’

This week, we are reminded of the importance of removing barriers to learning, ensuring every child has the opportunity to thrive in education and beyond.

At One Education, we share your passion for putting children first.

With expertise in Educational Psychology, SEND, and School Development, we can help you respond to complex challenges and ensure your pupils’ needs are met.

Let us know how we can help.

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