school 180Mental health, domestic violence, bullying and obesity are the most concerning pupil health and safeguarding issues for headteachers and other school leaders in England, a report on pupil wellbeing has revealed.

The report, which represents the views of 1,180 school leaders who completed The Key’s annual State of Education survey, highlights the scale of the challenge facing the new Child Protection Taskforce as schools increasingly seek to employ their own counsellors or draw on voluntary services to tackle wide-ranging pupil wellbeing issues.

It found that more than two-thirds (67%) of those surveyed are worried about their pupils’ mental health. Pupil mental health is consistently the largest wellbeing-related concern for leaders across school types, phases and English regions.

Meanwhile, almost three in five (58%) are concerned about domestic violence, followed by cyber bullying (55%), bullying (38%) and obesity (36%).

“Such widespread concern among school leaders about pupils’ wellbeing should be a wake-up call to society as a whole,” said Fergal Roche, chief executive of The Key. “Mental health issues, domestic violence, bullying and drugs have implications that reach far beyond the school gates, and can have a serious impact on the future prospects of those children affected.

"The level of concern about pupils’ mental health is particularly worrying given the recent history of cuts to mental health services."

Other key findings include that:
- Domestic violence is much more of a concern for primary school leaders (70%) than those in secondary schools (47%)
- Cyber bullying is of concern to more secondary school leaders, with almost three-quarters (74%) of those surveyed saying this is a worry, compared to 59% of primary school leaders. Academy leaders also identified this as an area of concern (69% - second only to mental health)
- Sexting and drugs rank higher as concerns for secondary school leaders (61% and 55% respectively); obesity ranks higher among primary school leaders (42%).

The release of the report follows the Government’s announcement of a new Child Protection Taskforce, which is intended to drive reforms to protect the most vulnerable children in society and give them the opportunity to succeed.

Catherine Roche, chief executive of children’s mental health charity Place2Be, said: “This report chimes with our own experience and discussions with headteachers, who tell us that pupils’ poor mental health negatively affects their ability to concentrate in class and to learn.

“We provide mental health services and training for hundreds of schools in England, Scotland and Wales but many schools are finding it difficult to meet their pupils’ emotional needs. The recent [Department for Education] ‘Counselling in Schools: A blueprint for the future’ recognises the vital role that school-based mental health services play. From our direct experience there is no doubt that when pupils receive expert emotional support, they are better able to