School, not Covid, is a major cause of children's mental health issues in 2021, according to Parentkind which represents PTA groups

School, not Covid, is a major cause of children's mental health issues, a survey by a group that represents Parent Teacher Association (PTA) organisations.

Tuesday, 23rd November 2021, 4:56 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd November 2021, 4:58 pm
School ranks higher than Covid as a cause of mental health issues among the young, a survey has found. Picture by Getty

Parentkind released its Parent Voice Report 2021, providing new detailed evidence of parents' views on their child's mental health, schooling and education. The charity represents 13000 PTA groups in England Wales and N Ireland, including Oxfordshire PTAs.

Parents’ concerns about children’s mental health had reduced during lockdown and school closures but have returned to pre-pandemic levels. There a significant rise in parents reporting the incidence of mental health and well-being issues in 2021.

Parents are concerned about a range of mental health and wellbeing-related issues. The top five concerns for parents are: Exam stress (55%) Anxiety (54%) Homework-related stress (49%) Bullying (49%) The pressure to constantly engage with social media (48%).

Over 30 per cent of parents expressed more serious concerns about their children’s mental health linked to; self-harm, sexual harassment, substance abuse and eating disorders.

The importance of child mental health has become more widely accepted than ever before, as the myriad impacts of the pandemic and public healthcare measures have continued to take a toll on children and young people. When it comes to their child’s experience at school, many parents continue to be concerned about a range of mental health and wellbeing-related issues.

In addition to greater experience of homework and exam stress, parents of children 11-18 years old significantly are more likely to report experience of anxiety, pressure to engage with social media, depression, and online abuse. This highlights the additional weight of responsibility on schools at secondary level and beyond to support young people’s mental health at the stage they become most vulnerable to social, emotional and academic pressures.

Even at primary school level, almost a third of parents say their child has experienced homework stress (30%) and anxiety issues (32%), while well over a quarter (29%) say their child has been bullied. More than one in ten primary parents report that their child has experienced depression (13%), social media pressure (14%) and online abuse (13%).

Separately, we find that 60% of parents agree that bullying is dealt with fairly at their child’s school. This suggests the majority of parents support schools’ response to the problem but bullying remains a widespread area of concern.

Mental health support and knowledge within schools is hugely important to parents and their priorities for this are to see mental health support workers embedded to provide timely support and professional, age-appropriate counselling services.

As many as 88% of parents deem mental health development an important focus within the curriculum. When it comes to where parents would want to see any additional education funding directed, child mental health services rose to second place priority in 2021 just behind learning resources. This year’s research shows that mental health and wellbeing have moved to the top of parent priorities for their child’s education and schooling.

Parentkind CEO John Jolly says, “Our Parent Voice Report 2021 shows that mental health and wellbeing is a major priority for nearly 90% of parents. Mental health is seen by parents as a hugely important area for schools and the curriculum to focus on.

"Parents want to see mental health support workers embedded in schools to provide timely support and professional, age-appropriate counselling services. The recent announcement by Government of money for this is welcome but a drop in the ocean compared to the need.

"The importance of child mental health has become more widely accepted than ever before, as the myriad impacts of the pandemic and public healthcare measures have continued to take a toll on children and young people. Sadly, school itself appears a major contributor to children’s poor mental health and there is an urgent need to address this.”