Royal Grammar School

Newcastle

Mental health hissy fit

Mental health hissy fit

 

Governments can be petulant. They often say they're keen to talk. In my world, that of education, they'll consult unions, subject associations, sectoral representatives, and they'll even appoint champions for particular aspects (think behaviour, mental health, Pupil Premium and the like). When it's going well and they like what they're told, everything remains cordial: but, my goodness, they don't like it if anyone dares to disagree!

So it was that Natasha Devon MBE, appointed Mental Health Champion (unpaid) only last year, has been pushed out. She dared to suggest - as it happens, at HMC's Mental Health Conference last Thursday which I attended - that the ceaseless testing regime in schools and financial pressures on students in further and higher education are causing alarming levels of anxiety among young people. And anxiety, she stressed, is the most common cause of damage to young people's mental health.

This government believes in austerity, and in wall-to-wall testing. I'm afraid Natasha spoke out - candidly, honestly and bravely on behalf of young people. Government didn't like it. It threw a hissy fit and slammed the door on her, as it has so many others who have dared to disagree with this regime, its coalition predecessor and the Blair/Brown government before that. That's how governments behave, alas: petulantly. 

Natasha has vowed to continue speaking out on behalf of the young people whose voice she hears and communicates so readily. From us at RGS, from the independent sector as a whole -- and, I am sure, from every school in the land and those who work in it - she will receive unstinting support. We salute her courage and tenacity.

I hope the government will appreciate the need to hear her voice and pay heed to her message.

Bernard Trafford
Headmaster