Schools’ Responsibilities for Pupils’ Mental Health
| Education Jagat - 16 Nov 2019

Ears by observation and early identification of developmental delays, growth and children’s activities talking and listening developing social skills physical skills, emotion, mental health, and behavior, reading, writing, numbers readiness to join the school.

We have come to understand children’s characteristics and developmental needs from the perspective of child development psychology, as well Schools have an important role to play in supporting the mental health and Wellbeing of their pupils, by developing approaches tailored to the particular needs of   their pupils. The universal aim of education reveals total development which automatic covers the social and mental well-being of the children .Although by seeing the significant role of education in the life of common man it becomes a fundamental human right automatic for everyone yet in constitutional mirror it took a long time to be recognized. If we talk about India, there is provision of right to free and compulsory education for every child between 6 to 14 years of age. This is stated as per the 86th Constitution Amendment Act added Article 21A. All schools are under a statutory duty to promote the welfare of their pupils, which includes: including safeguarding from risky environments, preventing impairment of children’s health or development, and taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes. 

Schools have been advised and mandated by educational Authorities, as well as Apex Court and High courts in specific orders to position campus-based counselling services by professionally qualified as school counselors K-12. Professionally Qualified school counselors with distinct speciality recognised as School counsellor worldwide; empowers them to offer proactive, age appropriate early Identifications and interventions. In fact, Elementary school counsellors (Preschool-Primary) are the best resource to monitor and advise parents about mental health issues of child 0-5 yas from the contexts of their families and social culture. Research and clinical experience from a range of disciplines  including neuroscience, behavioural research, program evaluation, and economics—demonstrates that the first experiences and relationships in life play a critical role in a child’s ability to grow up healthy and ready to learn. Early intervention to identify issues and provide effective support is crucial.

The school role in supporting and promoting mental health and wellbeing can be summarised and reflects in: “ISCA National Model for comprehensive and integrated professional counseling services focuses on 8 general domains for effective applications in everyday professional activities. They are equipped to promote, support Psychological wellness of students, resilience by collaborating with all concerned stakeholders, facilitating environmental changes conducive to good health and adjustments for students, and accessing resources to address a wide variety of behavioral, learning, mental, and physical needs” 

•    Prevention: creating a safe and calm environment where mental health problems are less likely, improving the mental health and wellbeing of the whole school population, and equipping pupils to be resilient so that they can manage the normal stress of life effectively. This will include teaching pupils about mental wellbeing through the curriculum and reinforcing this teaching through school activities and ethos;
•    Identification: recognising emerging issues as early and accurately as  possible;
•    Early support: helping pupils to access evidence based early support and interventions; and
•    Access to specialist support: working effectively with external agencies to provide swift access or referrals to specialist support and treatment.
There is no requirement on schools to have a standalone mental health policy, although some do choose too. However, schools are required to produce (and in some cases publish online a range of policies which can be used to promote and support mental health and wellbeing, either as a statutory requirement or good practice as recommended by ISCA. These policies need to be consistent with schools’ duties under the RTE Act 2010. For example, where a pupil has a mental health condition that amounts to a disability and this adversely affects their behaviour, the school must make reasonable adjustments to its policies, the physical environment, the support it offers, and how it responds in particular situations. Published behaviour policies need to be consistent with the legal requirement that treating all pupils the same may be unlawful where a disability affects behaviour. It may be unlawful to apply a behaviour policy that treats all pupils the same if a pupil’s disability makes it harder for them to comply with the policy than other pupils who are not disabled. More detailed advice on reasonable adjustments can be found in our behaviour and discipline in schools Counsellors’ study modules on BSELDs. 

Schools are under a duty to use their ‘best endeavours’ to identify and support pupils with SEN meet their pupils’ special educational needs. As part of this duty, it is important that schools consider how best to use some of their School counsellors’ resources to manage mild to moderate levels of mental health issues , and when its intense for referral to external SEN resources to provide support for pupils with mental health difficulties that amount to special educational needs. It is also important that all the needs of those pupils, who attract pupil premium to the school, including mental health needs, are assessed and support is arranged accordingly.

 Schools should also have in place arrangements which reflect the importance of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of their pupils. Mental health problems can, in some cases, be an indicator that a child has suffered or is at risk of suffering abuse, neglect or exploitation. It is essential that school counsellors and staff are aware of their responsibilities, as set out in statutory guidance and in Working Together to Safeguard Children). If staff have a mental health concern that is also a Safeguarding concern, immediate action should be taken, following their schools child protection policy and speaking to the designated safeguarding lead or a deputy of School counselling executive team members. School and college staff is particularly important as they are in a position to identify concerns early, provide help for children, and prevent concerns from escalating. 

H M Kulshrestha, PhD

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