THE BLOG

Why Teachers Should Be Advocates Of Child Mental Health

02/10/2017 12:17

Thanks to some amazing royal and celebrity role models the mental health of children and young people is now a hotly debated topic. And rightly so. With 1 in 10 young people affected by mental health problems in their childhood and adolescence and a staggering 1 in 4 adults affected every year, it's an issue we must continue to share, debate and talk about.

One of the biggest factors in a child's life is undoubtedly school and it is clear that the pressure of education can take its toll on some young people.

Exams, coursework, making the grade - this has always been a part of school life. But in the last few years the goal posts have most definitely moved. Schools are now not only accountable for the A* to C pass mark in core subjects but the concept of levels of progress has also moved up the pressure gauge.

Fresh faced children walk into school in year seven with a progress mark or level they must achieve or exceed. The problem is sometimes these targets are completely unrealistic. They don't take into account the sudden change in exam content and style or the fact that a whole generation of children have sat a entire key stage geared up to the old GCSE format. They fail to recognise a child's ever evolving background and the impact of real life on a child's ability to apply themselves.

If a child isn't making their expected progress, they are pushed to this by their teachers. In the background teaching staff know that this target, generated at age 11, might not be right for the child at this moment in time but they have no choice but to push them harder. Teacher pay, school funding and reputations are all on the line.

With this in mind schools are definitely rising to the challenge of child and adolescent mental health. Teachers are being trained in how to better support this and finally we all feel able to talk about this imperative issue openly.

But as a parent it's sometimes a helpless situation. We want to offer our children support but our gorgeous babies have morphed into independent teenagers who really don't want to share the burden with us. Schools are also limited in what they can physically offer and so the wilderness of adolescent mental health is still proving a difficult terrain to master.

This is one of the reasons I have taken my own teaching career in a new direction. Whilst teaching some amazing children the new GCSE specifications in English I could literally see the stress on their faces and the weight on their small shoulders. Some of them took it all in their stride and breezed through whilst many floundered through the two year course unable to cope with the volume of work and expectation. As a conscientious teacher I wanted to help them as much as I could but individually mentoring each child in my class was just not feasible.

In my company we try to counteract the stress bubble of studying by placing our main emphasis on the individual well-being of the student. Yes we want to help them to achieve the best they possibly can but this doesn't have to be a stressful process. There are so many wonderful ways to cope with stress, to manage workload and rise up to those expectations. And this is what we aim to model for each child.

Whilst it's fabulous that the public and schools are finally talking about mental health there is still a long way to go. We need to give our young people the appropriate strategies to manage their mental well-being at school effectively and most importantly we need our teachers to be trained advocates of this practice.

You can find out more about Jude's work in supporting child mental health and well-being by visiting www.adspiro.co.uk.

Comments

CONVERSATIONS