IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Teachers need urgent training to respond to children’s mental health problems

15 March 2022

Schools and teachers urgently need training to support them to promote good mental health and respond to problems, say a group of experts, including Master’s student Chloe Lowry from IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society.

Backs of secondary pupils looking at teacher in classroom

Chloe (Child Development MSc) was lead author on a series of papers published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine on the intersection between health and education, in particular the role of teachers in children’s mental health.

The researchers highlight that the rates of mental illness amongst children have increased by 50% in just three years. However, only a quarter of children with a mental health disorder receive support from mental health professionals. Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that teachers are the most common source of support for such children.

All teachers are part of Child and Adolescent Mental Health tier 1 services meaning they are considered able to offer general advice and treatment for less severe problems, as well as referring to more specialist services. Despite this being an area that teachers have to deal with, only one teacher per school currently receives the government funding for mental health awareness training. The authors also note that government research has found just 40% of classroom teachers in England report feeling equipped to teach children in their class who have mental health needs, and only 32% know how to help pupils access specialist mental health support outside school.

Chloe Lowry said: “It is both astonishing and alarming that teachers are not adequately trained for these roles. Given the essential role schools and teachers play in supporting children’s long-term health and wellbeing, and responding when problems arise, funding support from the health sector to equip this forgotten health workforce could be transformational."

In the papers, the authors make recommendations including integrating comprehensive training in child development, health, and wellbeing into teacher training courses. They argue that these should be provided free of charge to all current teachers. The authors also recommend investing in schools so that they can become hubs for children’s services.

Co-author Dame Alison Peacock, CEO of the Chartered College of Teaching, said: “We offer these recommendations to create a healthier education system, turning vicious cycles of poor pupil and teacher wellbeing into virtuous circles that enhance children’s long-term physical health, mental health, educational and economic outcomes.”