Teaching is incredibly demanding: you are a resolver of conflicts, a performance-management consultant, a motivational speaker and more – and that’s before any of the actual teaching starts.
The increasing prevalence of social media in schools has further complicated the role. Earlier this month, figures showed that “sexting” cases involving children have more than doubled in two years. And at the last count, a staggering one in 10 children had a diagnosable mental health problem – about three in every classroom in the country.
Add the ever-increasing pressure to deliver exam success and new assessment metrics, and there is a clear argument that today’s teachers have more on their plate than ever before. The forthcoming Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health provides an opportunity to relieve some of that pressure.
Ambitious in scope and aspiration, it is billed as “a new Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health to set out plans to transform services in schools, universities and for families”.
Publication is imminent, and it is expected to ask schools and teachers to play their part in tackling children’s mental health problems. This is right. But at the same time, as a society we must examine ways in which these problems can be addressed earlier – before they escalate and have long-term impact on a child’s education and, indeed, life chances.
It is simply not reasonable to expect teachers to handle children’s mental health on their own – and offering mental health intervention only at school age, and in school, comes too late for many.
Which is why parenting support – simple sessions that help parents to help their children – must be part of the solution, and included as such in the Green Paper. The alternative is that the burden on teachers to tackle mental health problems in their pupils becomes exponentially greater.
Evidence-based parenting programmes are an…
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