Schools must care

The extra £12.8bn set aside for education spending in
England over the next three years will, in the words of education
secretary Estelle Morris, be used to deliver “higher
standards, better behaviour, and more choice”.

It is difficult to take exception to any of these objectives,
but, like so much that is said by government ministers, they are
open to interpretation. For example, there are three principal ways
to achieve better behaviour in schools: work to improve the
behaviour of badly behaved pupils, throw them out, or ensure that
they are never admitted in the first place. So far the only option
that doesn’t seem to have been explored thoroughly is the

As the report published this week by the Mental Health
Foundation makes clear, this attitude among schools has to change.
The media frenzy surrounding the publication of GCSE and A level
results bears witness to the emphasis on higher academic standards
in schools, no matter what the cost to pupils who may have a
negative impact on a school’s performance. But schools owe it
to all children to help them make the most of their chances in life
and give them opportunities to prosper, not just the high

Children with emotional and behavioural difficulties are among
those whose profile Community Care is trying to raise in
its Changing Minds: Better Mental Health Care for Children
campaign. Teacher training must place much more emphasis on the
pastoral care of children in education, as the Mental Health
Foundation report rightly points out.

Child protection as well as mental health needs should form a
significant part of this additional training, as the case of
Norfolk schoolgirl Lauren Wright has made plain. These are
important issues for special schools and pupil referral units, all
of which should have someone senior to take responsibility for
co-ordinating mental health provision and providing a link to the
child and adolescent mental health service. But these issues are
equally important for mainstream schools, especially as social
care, education and health services, propelled by the
children’s fund and Quality Protects, work ever more closely
together. The alternative is to fail the very children these
initiatives were designed to help.

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