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Kerry Hill

School Improvement Partner

  • Experienced Headteacher
  • Specialises in Primary Leadership, Closing The Gap, Wellbeing and SMSC
Subject,Key Stage,Curriculum

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What does the 'State of the Nation' Report mean for schools and colleges?

The government has released a ‘State of the Nation’ report, aptly choosing to release it during national Children’s Mental Health Week. The report was based on random sampling over 2020 and 2021 from children and young people aged 5 to 24 years of age and focuses on key areas such as education and skills, personal wellbeing, physical health, relationships, online safety and self, society and the future. It’s the first time online safety has been included as a marker (and reported on Safer Internet Day).

The report suggests that there have been “signs of recovery” in children’s wellbeing in 2021, following a reduction in wellbeing measures such as happiness, life satisfaction and happiness at school in 2020, stating that:

Wellbeing also appeared to rebound following improvements in pandemic conditions, suggesting that downward trends in wellbeing might be reversed following relaxation of restrictions.” (p5)

Despite this overall positive, there are notable downward trends identified across the report. Some of the key findings include:

  • Reductions in wellbeing occurred most clearly for both primary and secondary pupils in 2020 / 2021
  • Rates of probable mental health disorders among children and young people remained higher in 2021 than they were before the pandemic
  • Rates of probable eating problems were particularly high among the 17-19 age group compared to 11-16 year olds, and particularly high among females
  • Around half of all children and young people are concerned about the effects that the pandemic has had on their mental health
  • A decline in physical health is marked with obesity rates increasing substantially between 2019/20 and 2020/21, among both reception and Y6 age children
  • Students aged 9-17 reported being more unhappy at school compared to 6-8 year olds

Attendance is also highlighted as a key wellbeing measure for schools with pupils with higher wellbeing ratings more likely to have regularly attended school (DFE 2021). This further links to in-class wellbeing: students with better happiness/anxiety ratings found it easier to concentrate in class, were less concerned about catching-up on their learning, and were happier to be back at school, compared to those with worse happiness/anxiety scores (DfE, 2021). This reinforces the importance of face-to-face learning and its positive impact on pupils’ wellbeing as well as their education.

In addition, family and social factors are also seen to be linked to declines in mental health within the data presented, with factors such as poorer social relationships, loneliness, poorer family connectedness and problems with family functioning being linked to mental health problems in children and young people (NHS Digital, 2021). 

The release of today’s report does also bring some positive news for schools and colleges. The government has announced an additional £3 million to extend the DFE grant for Senior Mental Health Leads training, to support senior leads to access accredited training before May 2022. It is not yet understood if the funding will be extended into the new academic year, despite many 2020 / 2021 courses (when the first funding was announced) being unable to run because of the pandemic. 

This means that a school or college can access a grant of £1200 to spend on accredited training course places that start in March, April and May, and also go towards cover costs. 

We are delighted that TT Education is now a DFE accredited trainer for our brand new Senior Mental Health Lead courses. The new courses ‘An Introduction to Senior Mental Health Leadership’ and ‘Developing Strong Mental Health Leadership will support you to develop a sustainable whole-school approach to mental health and wellbeing.  

Our Introduction course will support those leaders new to the role of Senior Mental Health Lead, and schools who are in their early stages of developing a whole-school approach. 

The Developing Strong Senior Mental Health Leadership course will aid schools already working on a whole-school approach to deepen their thinking, embed stronger practice, and improve outcomes.

For more information on either course, please contact TT Education on 01206 625626 or



For more on the Senior Mental Health Lead Grants, visit

For the State of the Nation executive summary go to


For the Good Childhood Report (2021) see