Poulton headteacher backs health reform

A headteacher who quit her job to care for her mentally ill daughter has welcomed reforms announced by Theresa May.

Thursday, 12th January 2017, 6:00 am
Toni Roethling left her role to care for her mentally ill daughter

But Toni Roethling, who stepped down as head of Poulton’s Hodgson Academy last year, and another Fylde coast headteacher say they want to see action rather than words.

Prime Minister May said secondary schools will be offered mental health first aid training, revealed new trial to strengthen links between schools and local NHS mental health staff, and announced a major review of children and adolescent mental health services.

It comes as health secretary Jeremy Hunt said as many as three schoolchildren in every classroom have a mental illness.

“We have had a lot of politicians in the last year saying they want to put more resources into mental health, but it’s been about rhetoric and not reality,” Toni, who lives in Barton near Preston, said.

“It’s very positive news that there now seems to be a real desire to do things better, but we now need to put the wheels in motion.

“There have always been children with mental health issues, but the amount and complexity is becoming overwhelming.”

Mr Hunt, who said just a quarter of children with mental health conditions receive help, said early invention can give patients a much better chance of a full cure.

He admitted the £1bn already earmarked for mental health services in February was not yet fully filtering through the system.

But he stressed Mrs May’s announcement would improve the situation for children.

The focus on schools is driven by figures showing over half of mental health problems start by the age of 14 and 75 per cent by 18.

Under the government’s plans, mental health training for teachers and staff will be rolled out to a third of secondary schools in England next year, with the remaining two-thirds of secondary schools offered the support in the following two years.

But Sean Bullen, headteacher at Millfield High School in Belvedere Road, Thornton, said more funding needs to be made available to fund experts.

Mr Bullen, who last year wrote a letter to Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard and Wyre and Preston North MP Ben Wallace, expressing his concern about ‘the increase in children’s mental health issues’ said: “Paul Maynard immediately called a meeting with both primary and secondary heads.

“However, I share Toni Roethling’s concerns that the real need is for more funding to go into this area.

“To expect teachers who are primarily employed to teach subjects to be the supporter of children’s mental health would be very difficult. Teachers will be able to help but I think there should be money paid in to have a counsellor for every school – but the money is not there.”