Parentkind Parent poll reveals concerns over child mental health in schools

08/10/18

Our new research launched today (Monday 8th October 2018) shows three in five parents are worried about their child’s emotional well-being and mental health at school, claiming two in five children have experienced stress relating to homework (42%) and exams (41%), while over a third have suffered from anxiety (38%) and bullying (33%).

The findings from our latest annual parent survey also found that:

  • More than half of all respondents were concerned that the school’s high expectations were putting pressure on their child (53%)
  • Around a fifth of parents said their child had suffered from depression; rising to 23% of parents with children aged 16 or older. More than a quarter (27%) of these respondents said they were not satisfied with the way their child was helped by the school in this regard
  • A third (34%) of parents were not satisfied with how the school offered support for bullying
  • Although other serious mental health concerns such as self-harming, eating disorders and substance misuse were less commonly reported by parents (around one in 10 said their child experienced these), parents were relatively more satisfied by the support offered by their child’s school in these cases (self-harm 58%, eating disorders 61% and substance misuse 76%)
  • Nearly a quarter (23%) of parents said their child had felt the pressure to constantly engage with social media as a result of something that happened at school
  • The majority of parents think self-confidence is one of the key attributes children should leave primary (64%) and secondary (57%) with.

When asked for the top three attributes of a successful school, most parents said happiness (55%), followed by children enjoying learning (44%) and children learning positive behaviours such as resilience and self-confidence (41%). Further findings showed fewer (around a quarter) respondents believed being rated good or outstanding by school inspectors (24%) or having pupils achieve Government attainment targets (26%) was a sign of a successful school.

We believe that:
  • Parents should be part of decision-making processes relating to mental health provision in schools
  • Schools should ensure effective parent engagement strategies exist so every parent’s voice is heard allowing issues to be identified early and the right professional support to be put in place
  • Schools should ensure parents have access to up to date and timely advice and resources to help them support children with mental health issues. Charities such as YoungMinds, MindEd and Place2Be, offer such resources
  • Overall, funding strategies for schools should ensure sufficient investment in school-based mental health and wellbeing support.

Michelle Doyle Wildman, Acting CEO of Parentkind, commented on the findings saying:

"These findings make grim reading. Mums, Dads and Carers are clearly very concerned about the pressures our children and young people are facing, the lack of support services and the negative impact this is having on their wellbeing and mental health.

“At Parentkind we think it’s vitally important that parents’ concerns are listened to and acted upon. Their experiences should be a wake-up call for school leaders and politicians alike.

"Although it appears that our education system is adding to the pressures on our children, our schools are pivotal to turning this situation around. I hope today’s findings are a catalyst for educators and parents to work together to ensure our schools are a place where children are supported and equipped to cope, learn and thrive."

Emma Thomas, Chief Executive of YoungMinds added:

"These worrying findings reflect the mental health crisis affecting children and young people, which is playing out in classrooms across the country. Parents are understandably concerned about the range of pressures that their children face at school, and about the way that the education system appears to place more emphasis on academic performance than the wellbeing of pupils.

"While schools shouldn't be expected to do the job of specialist mental health services, they can play a huge role in building resilience in young people and creating a culture where wellbeing is a priority. It’s vital that policy-makers listen to what parents value in a school – the happiness, self-confidence and resilience of their children – and provide schools with the resources and recognition to achieve this."

Here’s some more interesting reading to help support your child’s mental health:

About the research

Our Parent Insight Survey looks at parents’ attitudes and opinions on a number of topics related to their children’s education. This is the fourth wave of the survey (the first one was run in September 2015) and as well continuing to track parental attitudes year on year, it also asks parents their views on a number of new topics including perceptions of effectiveness of schools’ communications with parents; the importance of parental influence of children’s education; children’s mental health and wellbeing at school; attributes that children should have when they leave school; and attributes of a successful school and parents’ satisfaction.

The field work took place between 13th Aug - 7th Sep 2018 with a total sample of 1,500 parents (England - 1,200, Northern Ireland - 100 and Wales - 200) who have at least one child aged 5-18 attending state school representative of the parent population by gender, age and social grade. The Welsh and Northern Irish sub-samples were boosted to achieve a large enough base of respondents to allow national comparisons.

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