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Press release

Only 4% of secondary school teachers have seen no major changes in pupils’ mental health in the last year

A new survey of teachers shows schools are committed to supporting mental health

Published

14 Apr 2021

In a survey we've commissioned, conducted by NFER in March 2021, over 700 teachers and senior leaders at secondary schools revealed the devastating impact the last year has had on the mental health of teenagers. More than three quarters said they’d seen increasing levels of anxiety/depressive symptoms (including low mood, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed), as well as reduced motivation and engagement.

In a survey out today over 700 teachers and senior leaders at secondary schools have revealed the devastating impact the last year has had on the mental health of teenagers. More than three quarters said they’d seen increasing levels of anxiety/depressive symptoms (including low mood, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed), as well as reduced motivation and engagement.

70% of teachers had also noticed worsening condition of teenage pupils with existing mental health problems.

Worryingly, 62% said they have seen teenage pupils presenting with mental health problems who weren’t previously known by staff at their school to have these problems. A stark juxtaposition with the only 4% who had observed no major changes in the last twelve months.

85% of secondary school teachers and senior leaders have said that mental health is a priority at their school, but they face many barriers to providing the necessary mental health support. Over half identified a lack of time and insufficient qualified staff to support mental health needs, as major issues. Another frequently reported barrier (49%) was insufficient availability of targeted support by professionals.

Other significant barriers included:

  • Lack of relevant teacher training (35%)
  • Focus on academic catch up (33%)

Against this backdrop and ahead of schools returning after the Easter break, the Early Intervention Foundation, a children’s charity, has looked at the relationship between emotional and behavioural problems in adolescence and the outcomes in adulthood.

The research, which is being released today, has found that teenagers who experience persistent emotional and behavioural problems are at- greatest risk of negative adult outcomes, including depression, anxiety, poorer education and employment outcomes.

The findings show the urgent need to invest in early intervention and prevention approaches. It is increasingly recognised that treatment approaches alone are not sufficient to address the burden of mental disorders among teenagers and to bring about improvements in mental health and wellbeing at a population level.

The research also identified a significant gap in the evidence that needs to be addressed concerning the long-term impact of emotional and behavioural problems for young people from ethnic minority groups and vulnerable groups such as young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) young people.

A report due out next month from the Early Intervention Foundation will provide insight into how schools can best support young people’s mental health and wellbeing. It will show how school-based mental health prevention interventions can play a significant role in reducing depression and anxiety symptoms in young people.The report will argue that:

  • As the prevalence of anxiety and depression is increasing among adolescents, it is essential that Government funds are invested in support that has been shown to be effective.
  • Support should be targeted at those most at risk of developing mental health problems.
  • To maximise the return on investment,schools need to be provided with high quality teacher training in combination with support from external professionals to deliver targeted interventions for at risk young people.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy programmes, when well delivered, can have a significant impact on reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety in young people.

Dr Aleisha Clarke, review author and mental health lead at the Early Intervention Foundation commented: “Adolescence can be a period of vulnerability, during which mental health problems commonly occur. That’s why it’s essential that we invest in prevention and early intervention to reduce vulnerabilities and enhance young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

“Targeted support for young people with persistent emotional and behavioural problems should be a priority. We call on Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, to help schools provide the mental health support that our survey shows they want to. This is vital because we know behavioural problems do not occur in isolation and often go hand in hand with mental health problems.

“The government’s funding for child and adolescent mental health is welcome. We now need to ensure that this investment is placed in support that is likely to work. We have seen convincing evidence on the impact of prevention interventions based on principles of cognitive behavioural therapy.”

-ENDS-

NOTES

Methodology:

EIF examined published research using longitudinal data sets which span adolescence (12–18 years) and adult life (19+ years). From our search of academic papers, 166 studies in total were considered potentially relevant. Of these, we reviewed 72 in full, and extracted relevant data.

About the Teacher Voice survey:

This report is based on data from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) March 2021 Teacher Voice Omnibus survey. A panel of 1,535 practising teachers from 1,349 schools in the publicly funded sector in England completed the survey. The panel is representative of teachers from the full range of roles in primary and secondary schools, from headteachers to newly qualified class teachers.Teachers completed the survey online during the period 12 to 17 March 2021. The figures in this release represent the 719 (46.8%) respondents who are teaching in secondary schools.

http://www.nfer.ac.uk/teachervoice 

MEDIA CONTACTS: 

Andy Ross, Senior Press Officer – 07949 339 975 / andy.ross@eif.org.uk

About the contributor

Dr Aleisha Clarke

Aleisha is head of what works, child mental health & wellbeing, at EIF.