What Do We Need to Teach New Teachers About Child Mental Health?

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Laura Purser


This paper introduces the context of mental health in education and the importance of the teacher being acknowledged as an essential component and contributor to the function of society (Bower, 2020). The paper suggests that the mental health crisis impacting children has implications for new teachers in meeting the demand in the current global climate. (Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), 2017; 2018); (Lortie-Forgues, 2021). It explores why the definition of mental health might be a problematic construct for teachers and considers whether the teacher has a significant role to play in mental health provision in schools beyond the wider community. It considers the role pathologization of behaviour plays in our approach to education and proposes that the approach teacher training takes towards critically reflecting on retributive discipline and restorative approaches in schools, subsequently supports teacher understanding of child mental health. It also looks at the current teacher training landscape and reforms and argues that policy makers and practice should be interdisciplinary with effective mental health knowledge.
The paper emphasises the importance of developing teacher understanding of the role of psychological awareness in supporting effective child mental health provision across the field of education and argues that new teachers have a part to play in this application through effective training to support the influx of demand. The paper proposes that critical considerations should be given to the potential application of interpersonal neurobiological research (Siegel, 2020), exploring concepts of the embodied brain through polyvagal theory (Porges, 2011). It touches upon developing new teacher understanding of trauma, (Van der Kolk, 2014) informed practice and transdisciplinary therapeutic approaches for practical use in schools. It considers the future of mental health knowledge in pre-service initial teacher training and proposes that such a focus will have a profound impact on making some headway in meeting child mental health needs.
The paper finishes by proposing that future research should look to develop a psychological, neurobiological, developmental sensitive approach to exploring child mental health and well-being within education and support the role of initial teacher training education (ITT/ITE) in creating confident new teachers with efficacy to meet the needs of child mental health in schools.

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