That figure is up from 97,956 in the 2018-19 school year, the last full school year before the pandemic began.
The increase, of 30%, seems to confirm fears that closures, disruptions in schooling and the stress of the pandemic are having a devastating effect on young people. The data was released as part of a “school census” conducted by the Ministry of Education.
Most of the children concerned benefit from support for special educational needs, while nearly 30,000 are covered by an education, health and care plan drawn up by their town hall, reserved for those most in difficulty.
Experts say there is a “crisis” in children’s mental health. Gemma Byrne, policy and campaign manager for charity Mind, said: “The pandemic has had a huge impact on the mental health of young people. In a recent survey, half of parents told us they fear their child’s mental health is now worse than before the pandemic.
“Unfortunately, too often, young people with special educational needs and disabilities cannot get the support they need for their mental health at school due to a lack of manpower, resources or limited specialized training. On top of that, many young people face long waits for NHS mental health services or are told they’re not ‘sick enough’ to get help.
“The government must urgently respond to the mental health crisis of young people by investing in early support centers and closing the gaps in education support for young people with SEND (special educational needs and disabilities).
Last night opposition politicians issued a call for action to ensure children and young people can access the support they need.
Bridget Phillipson, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said: ‘The Conservatives have neglected children’s mental health, leaving more and more young people to need extra specialist support at school.
“While ministers are focused on attacking each other, Labor would solve this problem now by putting a counselor in every school and a mental health center in every community so that young people have access to the support they need. needed from day one.”
The government says it has made support for children with mental health issues a key part of its recovery plan, designed to help pupils who have missed school due to the closures. This includes providing schools with £950m of extra funding which they can use to support pupil mental health and wellbeing.
A cross-government mental health recovery action plan also includes £79m to speed up and expand the provision of mental health support teams in schools, meaning nearly three million children in England will have access to school or university support by April 2023.
A government spokesperson said: ‘Our reforms to the support system for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) will set new national standards in education, health and care.’
“We have trained hundreds of additional school psychologists since 2020, who provide crucial support for children and young people with SEND, and an additional £10 million will train over 200 from September 2023.”
However, a major study published yesterday [[SAT]]has warned that children’s mental health services are collapsing under pressure and putting vulnerable young people at risk of exploitation, violence and abuse.
The Commission on Young Lives report says one in six children aged 6 to 16 were identified as having a probable mental health condition in July 2021, up from one in nine in 2017.
Commission Chair Anne Longfield said: “The children’s mental health emergency in England is so profound that we face a generational threat to our country’s future national prosperity and success. The scale of the problem is growing, amplified by the pandemic and the system is caving under the strain and unable to cope with the explosion in demand for help.”
Warnings have also been issued by the House of Commons Education Committee. In a report released earlier this year, the Committee said: “Before the pandemic, there were serious concerns about the mental health of our children and young people. The pandemic has exacerbated an existing crisis.