Whilst the guidance is non-statutory, schools do have a statutory duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of all pupils.
This guidance is a useful starting point to identify and create robust systems and cultures to support the wellbeing of the school community.
In this article, we provide a brief summary of this latest guidance. It is recommended that schools read this guidance in full.
Schools should be looking to identify their responsibilities under the following headings: prevention, identification, early support and access to specialist support, and ensure they have the appropriate policies in place.
You will see at paragraph 1.3 that "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 the DfE".
Building on past guidance, the DfE has highlighted again the importance of creating a whole school culture, ethos, environment and boosting the resilience of pupils. This will be created and embedded not just through the curriculum, but also through classroom management, working with parents and carers or peer support.
You should ensure that staff are given appropriate training to identify and support pupils who may be in difficulty. There is an emphasis on the school leadership team to "create a culture where calm, dignity and structure encompass every space and activity".
The guidance sets out the types of behaviours that might be considered to be 'outside the norm' for pupils depending on their age and personal situation. You should be alert to the risk factors that pupils face that may make them more susceptible to mental health problems. The guidance sets out a helpful table of the type of risk factors that may put them at higher risk.
Staff should be aware that behaviours exhibited by pupils may be a symptom of their emotional state, particularly in 'children in need', looked after children, children with SEN or disabilities, or those children with other protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. Staff should be careful to avoid any diagnoses of mental health problems, and allow the appropriate professionals to make these assessments.
All schools should be encouraged to work with external agencies across the community to support those pupils who need additional help. The guidance also recommends schools get involved in shaping the commissioning of local services through their Director of Children's Services or local Healthwatch team.
You should also be aware of your duties under new multi-agency safeguarding arrangements as set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children (July 2018).
The DfE has provided a list of resources for schools, split into the various areas discussed above and provides staff, pupils, parents and carers with practical tools and resources to access further help and support.