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1000 qualified ‘trauma informed’ teachers to support mental health in schools in wake of pandemic

Dr Sally Pearse (@SHUEarlyYears), Strategic Lead for Early Years, Sheffield Institute of Education (@SHU_SIoE), Sheffield Hallam University (@sheffhallamuni), urges other institutions to include mental health training in Initial Teacher Education courses    

Sheffield Institute of Education (SIoE), Sheffield Hallam University, is celebrating a mental health milestone with another 1000 newly qualified teachers who have received initial trauma informed training entering the profession. This training enables them to support children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing in schools which in turn supports their academic achievements. Dr Sally Pearse, Strategic Lead for Early Years, SIoE is urging other institutions to follow suit and help address the current mental health crisis in schools.

With continuing concerns over the impact of the pandemic on children’s mental health, and an increase of 134% in referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)  between April and June this year compared to the same period in 20201, there is an urgent need for schools to be equipped to not only support academic success but also mental wellbeing.

Commenting on the importance of this mental health milestone, Dr Pearse said,

‘There is widespread concern about mental health issues in schools and the impact of the pandemic is bringing further challenges. The latest research shows that the rates of probable mental disorders have increased in the past four years from 1:9 to 1:6 in 6-16 year-olds, and from 1:10 to 1:6 in 17-19 year-olds2.

‘Teachers are on the frontline when it comes to dealing day-to-day with children and young people’s mental health, and as providers of Initial Teacher Education (ITE) we need to prepare them for this important aspect of their role. We want to ensure that they have the skills and confidence to support children and young people in the school and classroom environment and make a positive difference. Addressing pupils’ mental health and wellbeing enables them to play a full part in school life, build positive relationships and make the progress they need to lead successful lives.’

Trauma Informed training has been a compulsory element of training for all Hallam students on Initial Teacher Education courses, from 2014 in early years, and more recently in 2019 for primary to post sixteen. The training, developed in partnership with Trauma Informed Schools UK (TISUK) a non-profit educational organisation, highlights the crucial role of teacher/pupil relationships, the importance of enriched classroom environments and consideration about how the curriculum is delivered.

Julie Harmieson, Director of Education and National Strategy, TISUK, explained,

‘This training is vital for the next generation of teachers to have at the very start of their career journey, so that on entering the classroom they are far better equipped to recognise children’s challenging behaviours as the manifestation of trauma and unmet needs. Children need opportunities to reflect and make sense of their experiences, so that they are better able to regulate and make the most of their education.

‘TISUK’s objective is to bring about a whole school /organisational cultural shift where wellbeing is the highest priority. By implementing trauma informed interventions we can help ensure the relational and emotional health of all. Our interventions are evidence based on over 1,000 research studies from psychology and neuroscience. Trauma Informed teachers are trained to deliver interventions to help address mild to moderate mental health problems including anxiety, conduct disorder, substance misuse and post-traumatic stress and help make schools mentally healthy places.’  

Dr Sally Pearse said,

‘Including the TISUK training in our Initial Teacher Education courses, not only impacts how our trainees respond to children, but also helps them to recognise when they themselves are experiencing stress. Our academic staff use the same approaches with trainees who are facing difficulties due to stress during their studies. The most common response I have found when teachers and academics undertake training in this field is ‘Why did I not know this sooner?’ This training doesn’t just help children, it has a positive impact on all our relationships.

‘The government has responded to the dramatic rise in mental health needs with a focus on mental health training for specific staff. We are recommending that all staff have an understanding of trauma informed practice, so they can use their knowledge and understanding in their interactions with children and young people. Sheffield Hallam University is currently working with local authorities across the region to embed trauma informed practice in schools and educational settings so there is a much wider positive impact and more support for children in crisis.’

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