Let’s place wellbeing at the heart of teacher training

19th May 2017

By Craig Smith, SAMH Public Affairs Officer

Teacher training has been a hot topic over the last few days, and the consensus is clear – things need to change!

The Scottish Government published an analysis of teacher training this week, looking at both undergraduate and post-graduate level. The analysis looked at how teacher training supports students to develop the attributes and knowledge needed to be a 21st century teacher in Scotland.

It found huge variation across university teacher training courses, and not enough focus on the three pillar of the Curriculum of Excellence: Numeracy, Literacy, and Health and Wellbeing.

We’ve long been concerned that despite the three pillars hypothetically having equal importance, health and wellbeing has been neglected. This is reflected in the analysis, at least at the training level. Health and wellbeing on average received 32 fewer dedicated hours than literacy. On one course, it received just 15 hours of dedicated time in the whole four years. How can we expect our teachers to be equipped with the skills they need to support a young person’s wellbeing?

Over at the Scottish Parliament, MSPs were also debating the issue of teacher training. This followed the Education and Skills Committee highlighting evidence  which showed worrying gaps in teacher’s preparedness after graduating. In contrast to the rather raucous general election debate, Parliament was largely consensual. Scottish Government agreed that more needs to be done to better equip our teachers. While the debate was a welcome show of political unity on an important issue, again the focus was on literacy and numeracy, with not enough said about health and wellbeing.

So what do we want to see change?

Health and wellbeing needs to be at the heart of the Curriculum, in practice, not just rhetoric – which means that teachers need to be confident in talking about it. Yet young people say that teachers are not always well equipped to talk about mental health.

We’d like to see a programme created to train all school staff in mental health, by 2018. We’d like teachers to learn about protecting mental health and identifying problems both before and after they qualify as teachers.

Based on existing costs, this would require an initial investment of £4.4 million – surely a price worth paying?

To find out more or to join SAMH’s campaign for children and young people’s mental health visit www.samh.org.uk/goingtobe