Charity urges Ofsted to focus on wellbeing

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Picture perfect: A ‘perfect school’ illustration, focusing on issues of wellbeing and mental health, was created at a live event in October (Image: Studio JoJo & Hannah Eachus)

An open letter has been delivered to Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman calling for wellbeing and mental health to be given greater priority when the Common Inspection Framework is updated next year.

Ms Spielman has also been sent an illustration of the “perfect school”, which has been created by young people and artists and which focuses on issues of wellbeing.

It is part of the Wise Up campaign which is calling for “a rebalancing” of the education system to make wellbeing a priority, and which is being run by mental health charity YoungMinds.

The letter, which is hosted online, has been signed by almost 23,000 people and is printed in full below.

Ms Spielman has also been sent a copy of an illustration showing the ‘perfect school’ when it comes to wellbeing and mental health. The image, pictured here, was created at a live event in October. It was drawn by artists Josie from Studio JoJo and Hannah Eachus and inspired by suggestions from young people, parents and teachers.

It coincides with the publication of survey results showing the widespread nature of mental health and wellbeing problems in schools. The research involved 6,719 UK teachers (the majority from England) and found that 60 per cent believed they had taught in the last year a child who is self-harming.

The teachers also said they had taught cyber-bullying victims (46 per cent), pupils with suicidal thoughts (44 per cent), and pupils with eating disorders (44 per cent).

Problems are getting worse, too, according to the 5,095 teachers in the survey who have been at the chalkface for five years or more –
94 per cent said that they have seen an increase in pupils presenting with mental health issues in that time.

The survey found that teachers spend on average 4.5 hours a week responding to concerns about mental health or wellbeing, with a majority citing a lack of resources or recognition of these issues in education.

And 86 per cent agreed that the Ofsted framework should be revised so that there is a greater focus on wellbeing and mental health, with other elements scaled back.

Ofsted is currently reviewing the Common Inspection Framework and a revised version is due for consultation in January.

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman has already said that the new framework will focus less on data and exam outcomes and more on the curriculum and what is actually delivered in schools.

She has proposed four revised judgements: Quality of education, Personal development, Behaviour & attitudes, and Leadership & management.

Meanwhile, the government has said it will spend £95 million to introduce “senior mental health leads” in schools. And £215 million is to be spent on creating local Mental Health Support Teams, aimed at offering some support and treatments in schools and also bridging the gaps between schools and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

However, the roll-out of the new mental health teams will only begin late next year and current plans mean that it will take until 2023 to reach just one quarter of pupils.

Emma Thomas, chief executive of YoungMinds, said: “Many schools and teachers do amazing work in this area, but, sadly, the current education system doesn’t place enough value on this. And so when schools have to make difficult decisions about how to spend their limited budgets, it can be hard for them to make wellbeing a priority.

“We hope Ofsted will build on their recent announcement that they will no longer focus on grades in inspections by guaranteeing that the new framework will have a far greater emphasis on wellbeing.”

YoungMinds' letter to Ofsted

Dear Amanda Spielman,

There is a mental health crisis in our classrooms, with mounting evidence suggesting mental health problems in children and young people are on the rise.

As I’m sure you agree, schools have a crucial role to play in promoting positive mental health. Many schools are already doing excellent work in this area, which can have real benefits for students’ wider education.

But this is not well enough reflected in the current inspection framework or in inspection reports.

This means that, when school leadership teams have to make difficult decisions about how to spend their limited budgets, it can be hard for them to make wellbeing initiatives a priority.

We very much welcome your recent announcement that the new inspection framework will no longer focus on exam results and grades. But we urge you to build on this by ensuring that wellbeing is at its heart.

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