The Duchess of Cambridge has said she was “very naive” as a parent about the importance of a child’s early development for their future.
She made the remark during a round table discussion at the Mental Health in Education conference on Wednesday 13 February, hosted by The Royal Foundation, at Mercers’ Hall, London.
“I was very naive myself as a parent, of really just how important particularly the early years are for children’s futures,” she said. “And how critical it is, everyone looking after children at a critical time, teachers, parents, and everyone who’s caring for them, how important it is that we get it right.”
The conference focused on what more could be done to tackle mental health issues in schools and support teachers in the process, bringing together experts from across the mental health and education sectors.
The duchess was introduced by host and broadcaster Kate Silverton, who praised “all the work” Kate has done in the field of education.
“As you will know, [she] has been a great driving force behind The Royal Foundation’s work supporting children in their earliest years,” she said.
In an impromptu speech to the conference, the duchess said: “Over the last eight years working with charities, I’ve met some of our leading experts in mental health, addiction, family breakdown, homelessness and education.
“They have taught me over and over again that the root cause of so many of today’s social problems can be traced right back to the very earliest years of a person’s life and often over generations.
“The scientific and other evidence is clear, the first few years of a child’s life are more pivotal for development, and for future health and happiness, than any other single moment in our lifetime.
“And as we have heard today, it is therefore vital that we support teachers with their own wellbeing so that they can find the best level of care for all children, in their schools and communities in which they work.”
During a round table focused on mental health training for teachers, the duchess asked if the importance of early child development is part of teacher training.
“I wonder what the base level of the importance of child’s early development is for teachers at the moment,” she said. “Is that part of the current existing teacher training at all?
“I know from a parent’s perspective it’s certainly not discussed, the importance of childhood development, and I know that’s a different challenge.
“But also the importance of relationship building, empathy and resilience can also be taught and monitored at home as well.”