New statistics suggest that most school leaders do not think their staff capable of sourcing specialist help for pupils with mental health problems, despite a government-commissioned survey stating that schools play a key role in identifying pupils with mental health needs.

The survey, published by the Department for Education, reveals that over half of school leaders disagree with the statement that most of their staff have “good access to a mental health professional if they need specialist advice on students’ mental health”. The results showed 58 per cent of primary school leaders and 52 per cent of secondary school leaders had disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement.

When asked the same question, 39 per cent of classroom teachers believed they did not have access to specialist mental health professionals.

Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, claims that three children in every UK classroom suffer from a mental health condition, but only one quarter of those children receive help. As part of her vision for a “shared society”, Prime Minister Theresa May has pinpointed children and young adults’ mental health as a key area for investment – a decision driven by figures that reveal over half of mental health problems begin by the age of 14, and 75 per cent begin before age 18.

May has announced that £1 billion is set to be invested into mental health services, with mental health first aid training for secondary school teachers on the list, along with new trials to strengthen the link between local NHS mental health staff and schools. The Care Quality Commission will also conduct a “major review” of current children and adolescent mental health services.

“The government believe that schools can play an important role in supporting children and young people’s mental health,” the research report states. “Ensuring that schools are equipped and supported to identify and help pupils with mental health needs is a key part of improving support for vulnerable children.”

1,874 teachers took part in the survey – 47 per cent from state-funded primary schools, and 53 per cent from state-funded secondary schools. Of these, 44 per cent were senior leaders, with the remaining 56 per cent made up of classroom teachers.