This year marks 70 years of Guidance Officer services in Queensland state schools. We have come a long way in this time. Who of us remembers ever seeing a Guidance Officer in our primary school years when we were growing up? In days gone by they were based elsewhere and only came into schools largely to test students and then leave again. Thankfully times have changed!
Did you know the Bank of England chief economist, Andy Haldane, has something important to say about guidance and counselling services in primary schools? Mr Haldane, who is more commonly grappling with interest rates than with human interest issues, has helped produce a report that proposes early mental health intervention in primary schools could lead to a sixfold return on the investment. Haldane is co-founder and trustee at Pro Bono Economics which conducted a study analysing the improvement in the mental health of students from over 250 primary students who had received one to one support from counsellors in 2016-17.
The study reported that every one pound invested in mental health services had the potential to deliver more than a six pound societal return by improving the long term outcomes for each child. Social Emotional Learning, which ideally should go hand in hand with mental health intervention at the school level, has an 11 fold return! Imagine the effectiveness of the two working together in schools.
In the UK one in ten children and young people have a mental health condition, similar to Australian statistics. We know that without effective intervention, these conditions can have a significant impact on the life outcomes of individuals resulting in reduced income and increased government spending on education, welfare and justice services. Even more sobering is the fact that suicide is now the leading cause of death in children and young people in Australia, accounting for more deaths than motor vehicle accidents. Early intervention is key to prevention and to supporting the mental wellbeing of our kids.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of National Association of Head Teachers said in response to the findings of Pro Bono Economics, ”This research shows so clearly the positive impact early help can have, for individuals and for society. It would be a sensible investment for (governments) to fully fund a universal rollout of mental health and wellbeing support in all schools.”
Implementing an evidence-based Social Emotional Learning program like Second Step, coupled with mental health interventions is the key to student wellbeing.