nurtureuk responds to Ofsted’s mental health announcement

23 July 2019

Responding to Ofsted’s announcement of new joint targeted area inspections examining the extent to which local services respond to children’s mental health, Dr Florence Ruby, lead researcher on nurtureuk’s Now you see us report, released the following statement:

“The acknowledgement of the vital role that schools play in identifying social, emotional, and mental health (SEMH) issues among children and young people is welcome, as is its commitment to ensuring inspectors take into account efforts taken by schools to consider the support provided by schools to children with SEMH needs.

Whilst the inspections will focus on particular children such as those who are subject to a child in need or child protection plan or are looked after children, we believe this is an important step forward and is in line with our goal of all schools being properly resourced and recognised for their efforts to understand and support pupil’s SEMH needs.

We particularly welcome Ofsted’s recognition that frontline practitioners have a role in identifying mental ill health.

In our response to Ofsted’s recent consultation into its new framework, we called for “a stronger focus on what schools are doing to gain an understanding of the SEMH needs of learners, and what they are doing to address them” in their inspections. This would serve to recognise the efforts being made by teachers to understand and support their pupil’s SEMH.

The measures announced by Ofsted in its joint targeted area inspections (JTAIs) represent a welcome step towards this, however in order for them to be effective it is crucial that participating schools are able to identify to SEMH among their students.

The Boxall Profile is already the most used tool in schools to understand the wellbeing and support needs of their pupils (Department for Education, 2017, Supporting mental health in schools and colleges: Quantitative survey) and was recently highlighted in the Department for Education’s 2018 Mental health and behaviour in schools advice.

In our recent Now you see us report, we shared the findings of piloting the use of the Boxall Profile with every child in school, conducted across four terms in 25 primary schools in England. Teachers in the pilot used the Boxall Profile to assess the SEMH needs of more than 6,800 pupils, and 92% of schools that successfully assessed all their pupils using the Boxall Profile found it very valuable and would recommend other schools do the same.

Once SEMH needs are identified, it is equally crucial that schools are given the resources to put in place the support needed. Now you see us found that when support was put in place following a Boxall Profile assessment, there was a 23% increase in the number of pupils who had no apparent SEMH needs after five months had passed.

Recent figures have shown that in a primary school setting, as many as one in 10 five to 10 year olds have a diagnosable mental health disorder (Sadler et al, 2018) and our research shows that addressing the social and emotional needs of children early on benefitted their SEMH, academic success, and could prevent them from experience more serious mental health and wellbeing issues in adolescence and later in life.

The JTAI package is currently aimed at young people between the ages of 10-15. Rolling out the measures further to reach children between 5 to 10 years old would have clear evidential benefits as this would support early intervention and would help prevent SEMH needs becoming more embedded.”