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Teachers: Training

Question for Department for Education

UIN 100429, tabled on 7 October 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to improve the provision of mental health training for (a) schoolteachers and (b) university lecturers.

Answered on

12 October 2020

The government is committed to promoting and supporting the mental health of children, young people and the school, college and university staff who support them.

School, college and university staff cannot act as mental health experts, and they should not try to diagnose conditions. However, it is important that they are able to identify possible mental health problems, so they are able to put appropriate support in place. It is up to schools and colleges to decide what training to offer their staff, but we have put in place a range of training for them to draw on.

Training has been particularly important to give schools confidence to deal with issues that will have arisen during the COVID-19 outbreak. To ensure that staff are equipped to support wellbeing as children and young people returned to schools and colleges, we made it a central part of our guidance both on remote education and on the return to school. We supported this with a range of training and materials, including webinars which have been accessed by thousands of education staff. We have also accelerated training on how to teach about mental health as part of the new relationships, sex and health curriculum, so that all pupils can benefit from this long-term requirement.

To provide further support during the autumn and spring terms the department has worked with our partners, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Health Education England, Public Health England and key voluntary sector organisations, to launch Wellbeing for Education Return. This project, backed by £8 million, will train local experts to provide additional training, advice and resources to schools and colleges, to help support pupil and student wellbeing, resilience and recovery. It will give staff the confidence to support pupils and students, their parents, carers and their own colleagues, and know how and where to access appropriate specialist support where needed.

This specific support is building on our longer-term activity to help support teacher knowledge. As part of this, the government has successfully delivered on the 2017 commitment of my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, to make mental health awareness training available to all eligible secondary schools by March 2020. To help embed knowledge and practice in schools, we are now in the process of developing a bespoke senior mental health lead training programme. The training will equip senior mental health leads with the knowledge to introduce or develop their whole school and college approach to mental health, implement effective processes for ensuring pupils and students with mental health problems receive appropriate support and to promote positive mental health within the school or college so that it becomes a key part of how schools and colleges operate. The knowledge requirements and expected outcomes for the training closely align to Public Health England’s ‘Promoting children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing. A whole school and college approach’, which is available here:

We also remain committed to our major joint green paper delivery programme with DHSC and NHS England, including introducing new mental health support teams linked to schools and colleges, and testing approaches to faster access to NHS specialist support.

We also recognise the importance of supporting staff with their own mental health and wellbeing. This is why we are funding a £95,000 pilot project with the Education Support Partnership, to focus on leaders’ mental health, providing online peer-support and telephone supervision from experts to around 250 school leaders. This is in addition to funding of £45,000 we provided to Timewise, to provide practical support and resources on flexible working, in light of new arrangements for schools responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.

It is up to higher education institutions to decide how to support their students and what training to offer to staff. The government strongly supports the University Mental Health Charter, which aims to drive up standards in promoting student and staff mental health and wellbeing. We are also working closely with Universities UK on embedding the Step Change: Mentally Healthy Universities framework, calling on higher education leaders to adopt mental health as a strategic priority and take a whole-institution approach, embedding it across all policies, cultures, curricula and practice.

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