In-school mental health support pilot to be extended until December 2020

(Title Image: via Senedd TV)

This week’s short debate was led by Jayne Bryant AM (Lab, Newport West) on emotional and social support for school pupils.

Whole-school approach

Jayne Bryant said children now have more information available to them than at any point in history, but often face far greater challenges in terms of social and emotional development. 47% of people in Wales have had at least one “adverse childhood experience” before the age of 18 which can carry emotional or social development baggage through into adulthood.

The Children & Young People Committee published a report in 2018 which:

“….sets challenges to Welsh Government. ‘Mind over Matter’ found broad consensus that school settings are key to promoting emotional well-being and good mental health, that the preventative approach needs to be embedded within the ethos of a school, not just the lessons taught, and that teachers are not solely responsible, but it requires joint working between professionals from across sectors—health, education, social care, third sector and youth work are key.”
– Jayne Bryant AM

She cited examples of good practice from her constituency. Millbrook School in Bettws, Newport has an early intervention programme to support pupils and families from an early age. The school’s headteacher hopes that when someone comes to the school they feel welcomed and they also provide on-site cafes and services aimed at families.

Dr Hefin David AM (Lab, Caerphilly) citied similar work at Nant-y-Parc Primary in Senghenydd, Jack Sargeant AM (Lab, Alyn & Deeside) cited work at Ysgol Ty Fynnon in Shotton and John Griffiths AM (Lab, Newport East) praised the work at Somerton Primary, also in Newport.

Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales) added that a whole-school initiative at Ysgol Maesincla in Caernarfon has led to a reduction in exclusions.

Building resilience

Replying on behalf of the government, Education Minister, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor), said that while she didn’t expect schools to become experts in psychology or psychiatry, they still need to be able to recognise when children are struggling emotionally or in any other part of their development.

“Our national mission action plan sets out how we intend to improve the school system by developing a transformational curriculum and assessment arrangements that will place well-being at the heart of our education system. Our new curriculum for Wales is the anchor for our commitment to emotional well-being, supporting young people to become healthy, confident individuals, building their mental and emotional well-being by developing their self-esteem, their resilience and empathy.”
– Education Minister, Kirsty Williams

She accepted that there was a need for more support to teachers to enable them to properly respond to children in difficulty. Based on the examples given by AMs during the debate, it was clear to the Minister that there was a good foundation to build upon.

An in-school Child & Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) pilot will be extended until 2020, backed by additional Welsh Government finance. School staff involved in the pilot have said having timely on-site support to expert advice was a clear benefit.