5 steps that Senior Leaders for Mental Health can take from the Good Childhood Report 2019

For eight years the Children’s Society have produced an annual report on the state of childhood in the UK. This provides a comprehensive examination of wellbeing for our children by looking at national trends, split by gender, an analysis of disadvantage and wellbeing and children’s perceptions of their future and wellbeing. Although different datasets are looked at, most relate to 10-17 year olds and so sadly cannot be interpreted for the early years of primary schools.

Below are five relatively steps that the Designated Senior Lead for Mental Health should consider to improve wellbeing and mental health among their pupils.


Wellbeing is not the opposite of mental ill-health

Terms such as wellbeing and mental health are too often used interchangeably. The report found that there is a link between poor wellbeing and mental ill-health, but that these are always related. Children can have low wellbeing without the symptoms of mental ill-health. In some cases, low wellbeing scores are more likely to be related with lower engagement in school than mental ill-health.

School Leads for Mental Health should:

  • Ensure that wellbeing is monitored, as well as mental ill-health, so that children with low wellbeing are not overlooked.

Children are least happy with school and their future

Sadly, too many children report low scores when it comes to their satisfaction with their school (10-17 year olds).  It has the lowest scores of the 10 areas measured. This is a significant dip compared to 2018. There is no significant difference between boys and girls. There was no change in their happiness with schoolwork, although it is important to note that girls are significantly more happy with their school work across all year groups.

School Leads for Mental Health should:

  • Consider whether their pupils are following this national trend and what aspects of school life, other than just schoolwork, are causing poor wellbeing.

Safety and inclusion at school is vital

Of 22 factors looked at, including family, neighbourhood and economic factors, safety at school were found to have the highest impact on wellbeing. Bullying and not feeling safe are highly likely to reduce wellbeing. They are also found to be exacerbated for children experiencing disadvantage.  They also found that asking about bullying and feeling safe at school is a reliable predictor of overall wellbeing.

School Leads for Mental Health should:

  • Ensure bullying is seen by staff as a key issue that supports wellbeing and mental health.
  • Consider whether strategies to support disadvantaged children experiencing bullying need to be enhanced.
  • Consider asking pupils whether they have experienced bullying in the last few months and whether they feel safe at school as these two questions will provide a good basis for evaluating overall wellbeing.