Jonathan Wood: Lack of training in mental health a concern in the classroom

Jonathan Wood, national manager for Scotland and Wales, Place2Be
Jonathan Wood, national manager for Scotland and Wales, Place2Be
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In 2016, 861 teachers in Scotland between the ages of 21 and 45 lapsed from the teaching register. Of 2,965 probationers in 2016/17, 190 withdrew and 208 deferred.

The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) identifies a number of reasons for this failure in teacher retention, including:
– the increasingly complex range of additional support needing to be addressed within mainstream classrooms, combined with insufficient training for teachers to do so
– the lack of time for teachers to think, collaborate, and improve their skills within the 35 hour working week
– a lack of job satisfaction with the working environment which is perceived by teachers as being overly bureaucratic.

In a recent Mental Health Foundation Scotland report, 71 per cent of teachers asked, said that they lacked the right training to help them address mental health concerns with pupils, and only 13 per cent had received mental health first aid training. 73 per cent of teachers felt they had low confidence in their capacity to respond to a child raising concerns about mental health. 51 per cent of teachers surveyed also revealed that the pressures of the job had led them to develop a mental health problem themselves.

While there is unlikely to be one approach to tackling this complex issue, Place2Be is piloting an approach in Initial Teacher Education Institutes in Moray House (at the University of Edinburgh) and the University of Stirling, the principles behind which may have something to contribute here. A full time Place2Be therapist/supervisor is attached to each institute with a brief to create thinking time – reflective space (what we call “Place2Think”) – for student teachers and their tutors around the issue of mental health.

This is not there to offer an education in mental health issues – although it can do; nor to teach teachers how to teach; but to create an opportunity to gain perspective on the impact day-in day-out contact with challenging, sometimes disturbed children can have on us professionally.

It is worth noting that as a psychotherapist, if I see six clients (six hours of work), I am obliged to have one hour of clinical supervision. We expect teachers on the other hand to stand in front of classes of 30 children every day of the school year with perhaps only an annual appraisal at the end of that year. And this, in an environment where we know that 1 in 10 children – three in any class – will be dealing with some kind of mental health issue. Take up of this kind of service to date suggests that there is a huge need in the teaching workforce for this type of support. At Place2Be we know this already from our direct work in schools, where Place2Think is an integral part of our “whole school” model – available to all staff in the school. Already student teachers in training are making full use of the offer at Moray House and Stirling.

As one student writes, due to this reflective time, “I have gained more confidence in my developing abilities as a teacher and now recognise when I need to gain perspective and look after myself during stressful times in placement… It helps remind us all about the investment we must make in ourselves.”

To hear more about this work listen to the Radio EDUtalk podcast: 
https://www.edutalk.info/show/radio-edutalk-10-02-2019-jonathan-wood-place2be-and-rowena-arshad-university-of-edinburgh-on-their-mental-health-pilot/

For further research go to: 
https://www.samh.org.uk/documents/welltrained.pdf
https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/news/70-scotlands-teachers-lack-training-address-mental-health-problems-schools

Jonathan Wood, national manager for Scotland and Wales, Place2Be