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The number of schools in England buying in professional mental health support for pupils has nearly doubled in three years, as prompt access to NHS services for those children most in need continues to be a problem, a new survey has found.

In 2016 more than a third (36%) of schools surveyed provided school-based support for students’ emotional and mental wellbeing. By 2019 66% of school leaders said they were commissioning their own professional support for pupils, including school-based counsellors.

The poll, by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), indicates that schools have developed an improved understanding and recognition of children’s mental health needs, but headteachers say there is still a lack of capacity in specialist services for those with more serious problems.