Surely we knew this already?
Former education secretary was ‘just not interested’ in number of children falling ill, says ex-health minister Paul Burstow
A former health minister has claimed Michael Gove quietly downgraded the importance of mental health in schools during his time at the Department for Education amid an explosion in the number of young people falling ill.
Note that word: we’re talking about an “explosion”.
We’ve been talking about this for a very long time:
Action Needed on Wellbeing and Mental Health of Children and Young People – 3D Eye – Nov 2014
House of Commons – Health Committee
Children’s and adolescents’ mental health and CAMHS
Third Report of Session 2014 – 15
Our own thoughts are summed up in our letter to the Guardian, (final letter of several on this subject):
Act Now – For the Rights of the Child : 3D Eye – Nov 10th 2014
So what’s new?
Paul Burstow, care services minister in the coalition government, suggests in an article online for the Observer that “Gove’s education ministry was just not interested in mental health and wellbeing”, despite the long-term costs to pupils and the exchequer.
Emergency admissions for teenagers with psychiatric conditions rose to 17,278 last year, almost double the number four years ago. According to data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre, there were 15,668 admissions of women aged 15 to 19 for cutting, burning or harming themselves, compared with 9,255 admissions in 2004.
Yet figures released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that between 2009-10 and 2013-14, the number of educational psychologists employed by local authorities dropped by 7%, with a loss of 80 educational psychologists across the country. Under Gove’s reforms of the education system, which saw the growth of academies and free schools, local authorities lost a role in providing expertise to thousands of schools across the country.
Burstow, a Liberal Democrat who lost his seat at the general election, claims that, at the same time as those reforms, Gove also disbanded a team of officials examining how to improve mental health in the country’s schools.
Disbanded? This is new to us. It doesn’t surprise us, though it’s obviously an outrage. Did Mr Burstow mention this at the time it happened?
This is his article in today’s Observer:
While one in 10 children and young people has a treatable mental illness just one in four receives treatment
The axing of funding for children’s mental health in the service of economic dogma will condemn a generation of young people to a life of misery for want of the right mental health support in their early years.
Half of life-long mental illness has its first signs and symptoms in the teenage years. Poor maternal mental health can have profound consequences for them, for their children and their children’s children. The LSE put a figure on this of £8.1bn.
Yet while one in 10 children and young people has a treatable mental illness just one in four receives treatment. It is a shocking indictment of our mental health services.
One of my abiding frustrations when I was minister for mental health was the lack of engagement from the Department for Education. Despite the wealth of evidence on the vital importance of children’s mental health across a range of measures, from academic performance to behaviour and adult life chances, education secretary Michael Gove chose to downgrade the importance given to the emotional wellbeing of young people.
The team of officials leading on mental health in education was disbanded, absorbed into other programmes. Gove’s education ministry was just not interested in mental health and wellbeing. Doing anything that might better equip teachers and schools to identify those in need was off the agenda. It was not seen as the core business of schools. Yet across public services it is schools that bear the greatest cost of poorly treated mental health.
“The core business of schools” is a very odd expression. Schools are not businesses and they don’t transact any business. Schools exist for the all-round development and wellbeing of children and young people. Of course mental health and “emotional wellbeing” are at the heart of schools’ concerns. How does it benefit young people to make academic and intellectual progress at the expense of every other aspect of their growth and development? And yet this is precisely what happened under the malign management of Michael Gove and his various cheerleaders in politics, in the media and in education. What a pity it’s taking so long to hold them to account.
See also our post from yesterday:
Professor Tanya Byron on children’s mental health – from 3D Eye – July 2014
Wellbeing: Change or Status Quo? – from 3D Eye – January 2015