How are schools tackling the increasing mental health and wellbeing challenges seen among young people since Covid? Anne Murdoch and Margaret Mulholland look at what is working well and areas where schools need further support

The spotlight on mental health since the start of the pandemic has brought the challenges faced by schools sharply into focus.

School leaders have reported rising anxiety among children and young people, just as mental health support which should be there to help them has become overwhelmed.

The anxiety and behavioural problems manifesting in schools have taken many forms but include attendance issues, friendship difficulties, eating disorders, and difficulty with curriculum engagement.

The government’s latest state of the nation report, published in February (DfE, 2023a), found growing numbers of children and young people reporting unhappiness, elevated levels of the probable rate of mental health and eating disorders, and an increase in emotional difficulties. Feedback from school leaders suggests there is particular concern around the 11 to 15-year-old age group.

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