Lynn is the Editor at Teacher Toolkit. With 20 years of primary teaching and SLT experience, she has been an Assistant Head, Lead Mentor for ITT and SENCO. She loves to write and also has her own SEMH and staff mental health blog: www.positiveyoungmind.com. Lynn…
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What are the barriers to school mental health and wellbeing interventions?
There is an increasing need for social emotional and mental health support (SEMH), yet there are decreasing resources available within our schools.
Whole-school approaches to pupil mental health can be implemented to improve the sustainability of provision. This review explores what school mental health interventions are currently available to inform future intervention planning. It was funded by the Department for Education and the Evidence-Based Practice Unit (UCL and Anna Freud Centre).
Moore et al (2022), recognise the current issues within our school, citing that there is an increasing focus on schools to deliver health and wellbeing interventions.
Furthermore, this topic is a key public health issue of our time. The review seeks to explore various articles on the subject of SEMH interventions and unpick the issues surrounding school-based interventions and barriers to sustainability.
Keywords were based on the terms: ‘sustainability’, ‘school’, ‘intervention’, ‘mental health’, and ’emotional wellbeing’, to look for relevant articles on this subject using six online databases and relevant websites. This resulted in 6,160 references. After the screening of the references generated, ten articles were included in the review. They were chosen if they met the following criteria:
- Being relevant to sustainability of SEMH in school.
- Involving school aged children from 4-18.
- Having the aim to improve SEMH in young people.
- Delivered during school hours.
- Have quantitative or qualitative methods.
- Published after the year 2000.
Moore et al. note that of the studies used, three were of high quality with rigorous data collection and coherent analysis and interpretation, whereas the remaining studies were of lower quality.
The review highlights little high-quality research on the sustainability of mental health and interventions in schools. A range of barriers and facilitators to sustaining SEMH interventions in schools are identified.
The main findings were:
- Barriers such as constantly shifting priorities and high levels of staff turnover are prevalent in schools. Consequently, schools would require specific approaches to increase sustainability.
- In the U.K., there has been a significant policy shift. More recently, it has been communicated that pupils’ mental health and emotional wellbeing fall at least partly in schools’ remit resulting in greater intervention infrastructure.
- Barriers to sustainability were largely at school level.
- Interventions becoming part of school culture may facilitate sustainability. However, factors such as logistics, limited time, and capacity in schools suggest that more is required from leaders and policymakers for mental health and wellbeing interventions to be successfully sustained.
- Future researchers should focus on the difficulties within school settings to implement these interventions.
In light of these findings, it would be useful for schools to consider improving the sustainability of interventions as part of a whole-school approach at the planning stage.
When an intervention is effective, schools should consider how to sustain this impact to benefit future pupils as part of a whole-school SEMH offer.
Download the full paper.
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