Your Weekly Sector News 22/03/24

Stay informed and stay ahead with Your Weekly Sector News, bringing you all the latest updates in education. This week, we cover the mental health crisis amongst children, the battle against child poverty, and calls for an inflation-plus pay rise for teachers. 
A teacher and a group of pupils playing a game of Connect 4 in the classroom.
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1 in 10 children referred to specialist mental health treatment

A new report from the Children’s Commissioner shows that nearly one million children were referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in 2022-23 – equivalent to 1 in 10 of the child population in England. Of these, almost a third received support, whilst 28% were still on waiting lists and 39% had their referral closed before accessing support. 

On average, children had to wait 35 days before receiving support. Notably, waiting times vary so significantly around the country that a child in Sunderland might have to wait 147 days in total, whilst a child in Southend might only wait 4. Nearly 40,000 children experienced a wait of more than two years. Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza, warns that the current system means children are ‘left to feel like second class citizens when it comes to accessing mental health support.’

The report makes a series of recommendations, including the introduction of a 10-year plan for children and young people’s mental health, to ensure fewer children experience mental ill-health and those who do receive excellent care. The report also sets out how the government and the NHS can ensure no child is turned away from mental health support, or has to wait more than four weeks for an initial assessment of their mental health needs. 

Reflecting on the report’s findings, James Bowen, assistant general secretary of NAHT, says the government should prioritise speeding up the ‘roll-out of mental health support teams in schools, ensuring fully-funded counselling or other creative therapies are available in all schools and colleges, and investing in early help hubs.’

Our Creative Psychotherapy in Education service provides a wide range of therapeutic interventions, including play, art, drama, and dance therapy. If your pupils would benefit from therapeutic support, please get in touch. 

Think tank calls for funding to poverty-proof schools

With over 4 million children in the UK living in poverty, a joint report from Child of the North and the Centre for Young Lives think tank is calling for the poverty battle to be taken ‘inside the school gates’ and put the country’s education infrastructure at the forefront of a national plan to tackle child poverty. The report shows that children who experience persistent disadvantage leave school on average 22 months behind their peers. Only 4 in 10 of the most disadvantaged pupils reach the expected standards at the end of their time in school. Drawing on data from 60,000 pupils across the Bradford District, the report also highlights the link between child poverty and the current attendance crisis. This comes as new analysis by FFT Education Lab shows that absence for disadvantaged pupils increases more than their peers as they progress through the year groups in secondary school.

The report sets out a new national plan to reduce the impact of poverty on millions of children, including a targeted programme of funding to support schools in the most deprived areas and improve resources for pastoral support, family workers, educational psychologists and youth workers, breakfast and after-school clubs, enrichment activities and holiday play schemes for all primary aged children. The campaign also recommends expanding free school meals to children in all families receiving Universal Credit or legacy benefits, but argues that ultimately ‘universal free school meals should be a long-term ambition for all schools.’

Moreover, the report recommends the re-establishment of a Poverty Unit in Downing Street, after the previous one was scrapped in 2016. This should be led by a government Poverty Tsar, alongside a cabinet-level minister for children and young people. Anne Longfield, Executive Chair of the Centre for Young Lives and former Children’s Commissioner, says that schools are already on the frontline of the battle against child poverty ‘but are overwhelmed by what is being asked of them. We need to give our schools and school leaders the tools – and, crucially, the funding – they need to poverty-proof their schools.’

Highly qualified and experienced, our Education Welfare & Safeguarding team can work with schools to complete Early Help assessments with families to identify needs and put the right support in place. Contact us today to learn more.

Education unions call for inflation-plus pay rise

Five education unions have issued a united call for a fully funded, inflation-plus pay rise as part of a restorative correction for teachers and school leaders to tackle the recruitment and retention crisis. Unions include the Association for School and College Leaders (ASCL), National Education Union (NEU), Community, NASUWT, and NAHT the school leaders’ union, together representing an overwhelming majority of teachers and school leaders. 

This follows the Chancellor’s Spring Budget, which confirmed there would be no additional funding for schools. In a joint statement, unions claim that this will result in further cuts to pay, jobs, and support for pupils. Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of NASUWT, says that the problem of recruitment and retention in schools will continue to escalate ‘until the depth of this crisis is recognised, and a commitment [is] made to use the pay mechanism to restore the status of teachers.’

Last year, a dispute over teacher pay led to a series of teacher strikes. The dispute was resolved when the Department for Education (DfE) awarded teachers a 6.5% pay rise from September 2023. In its submission to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), the DfE suggested that teacher pay rises should return to ‘a more sustainable level’ in the next academic year. However, unions argue that RPI inflation was 8.9% in September 2023, meaning that the 6.5% pay increase represented another real-terms cut. Therefore, they state the pay increase of September 2024 ‘must be the first in a series of sustained above inflation pay increases designed to restore the pay lost in real terms since 2010.’ 

One Education is passionate about nurturing the learning, growth and development of both pupils and teaching professionals in schools. 

We’re proud to support schools on their journey towards continuous improvement and innovation, providing a wide range of consultancy services, training, and resources. 

Get in touch to find out more. 

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