Responding to the mental health crisis

28 March 2022

97% of UK schools now providing pupil mental health support but one in 10 teachers feel poorly equipped.

  • Teachers have witnessed a rise in pupil anxiety, stress and depression since the pandemic 
  • Two thirds more concerned about managing mental health and wellbeing of pupils 
  • Half of teachers want the government to provide a national counselling service for school children
New research1 from specialist education insurer Ecclesiastical has revealed the majority of schools (97%) are providing support for pupils struggling with their mental health. Despite this, one in eight (12%) teachers admit to feeling poorly equipped to support pupils with mental health issues. 

Increase in pupil mental health issues since the pandemic

The pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues in the education sector, and schools have witnessed an increase in pupil anxiety (56%), stress (54%) and depression (46%). 
 
Perhaps unsurprisingly, two thirds (66%) of teachers are now more concerned about managing the mental health and wellbeing of pupils as a result of the pandemic. 

Contributing factors

The biggest contributors to poor student mental health are a dysfunctional home life (34%), isolation during Covid lockdowns (33%) and falling behind due to the pandemic. 
 
The research also identified a peak2 in pupil mental health issues at age 11 – a turbulent time for some pupils as they transition from primary to secondary schools. 

Supporting pupils with mental health issues

Additional training for staff (44%), regular lessons on mental health issues (43%), staff members with counselling responsibility (41%) and a dedicated mental health professional (41%) are the top ways schools are supporting pupils with mental health issues. Only 3% of schools don’t provide any mental health support for students. 
 
For example, Hardingstone Academy3 in Northampton worked with a team from St Andrew’s Healthcare as part of its School Mental Wellness Programme. The St Andrew’s team worked closely with the school for over 18 months, providing staff training and ideas for whole school mental health and wellbeing strategies and practices. 
 
Despite the majority of schools providing mental health support for pupils, one in eight (12%) teachers reported feeling poorly equipped to support pupils with mental health issues. 
 
Teachers think the government should be doing more to support students with mental health including more funding (51%), a national approach to mental health (50%), and a national counselling service for school children (49%). 
 
The Teachers’ Union NASUWT4 is campaigning for the UK Government to secure statutory provision of schools-based counselling in every primary and secondary school in England. Unlike in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, there is currently no legal requirement for school-based counselling in England. 
 
Faith Kitchen, Customer Segment Director at Ecclesiastical Insurance, said: “As one of the leading insurers of schools in the UK, Ecclesiastical is passionate about supporting the education sector. The pandemic has put a huge pressure on schools and the mental health of pupils is a key risk for teachers and staff to manage. While it’s encouraging to see most schools are providing mental health support for pupils, some teachers feel poorly equipped to support pupils with mental health issues. The pandemic has created new risks for schools and seriously exacerbated existing challenges in the sector. We encourage schools to think about the risks they may face and how best to protect their organisations for the future.”
 
Ecclesiastical Insurance’s Education Risk Barometer 2021 explores the top risks within the education sector and focuses on key areas of concern including pupil and teacher mental health and safeguarding. It is the latest in a series of sector insights from Ecclesiastical Insurance, combining independent research with specialist knowledge from the insurer. 
 
Ecclesiastical Insurance offers a range of risk management support and guidance to help schools manage the risks they face. For more information, visit the Hub for Education.
 
1 The survey was commissioned by Ecclesiastical Insurance and conducted by OnePoll with 500 UK professionals in schools and sixth forms from 1st – 19th October 2021. 
2 On average, the earliest schools are identifying mental health issues is 11 years old.