Today’s Education in the Media blog looks at the launch of new mental health trials in schools, and free speech guidance in universities.
Mental Health Trials
Today, Monday 4 February, we are announcing one of the largest mental health trials in schools, which will see 370 schools contributing evidence about the best mental health support and wellbeing practices for chidren and young people. This has been covered by the Mail, the Independent, I News, the Sun, the Times, the Telegraph, the Metro and on broadcast by Good Morning Britain.
New mental health assessments for children entering the care system will be piloted in nine areas. Five approaches will be used in the trials – two focusing on increasing awareness in secondary schools through specialist instruction sessions and tools to increase understanding, meanwhile three approaches will include primary schools and take a lighter-touch approach with breathing exercises and mindfulness lessons.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:
As a society, we are much more open about our mental health than ever before, but the modern world has brought new pressures for children, while potentially making others worse.
Schools and teachers don’t have all the answers, nor could they, but we know they can play a special role which is why we have launched one of the biggest mental health trials in schools. These trials are key to improving our understanding of how practical, simple advice can help young people cope with the pressures they face.
To support this, we’re introducing compulsory health education in all schools, within which children will start to be introduced gradually to issues around mental health, wellbeing and happiness right from the start of primary school.
We are rolling out significant additional resources to schools to improve mental health provision at an earlier stage through the Government’s Green Paper proposals, including awareness of ‘mental health first aid’ techniques and teams of trained mental health staff to work with and in schools.
On Saturday 2 February, we agreed with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and eight other organisations to announce new collaborative guidance to protect lawful free speech at universities. This received coverage from BBC Online, Huffington Post UK, I News, the Independent, the Telegraph, the Mail, the Times and on broadcast from Sky News and Channel 4 News.
Organisations include the Department for Education, Home Office and the Charity Commission. New guidance has now been finalised and agreed by all involved.
Universities Minister Chris Skidmore said:
Free speech is a value integral to the independence and innovation that embodies the higher education sector in the UK, fuelling academic thought and challenging injustice. This guidance is a symbol of the commitment from across the sector to protecting freedom of speech.
The guidance provides a clear framework for institutions and student unions to work within, and provides additional clarity on the contentious issue of hate speech. It also sets out a clear benchmark of good practice around how these organisations can work together to facilitate and uphold free speech, alongside other requirements such as the Prevent Duty, which requires higher education institutions to safeguard staff and students from being drawn into terrorism.
I want to thank the EHRC and all the contributing organisations for their collaboration to make this vital feat possible.