Pictured from left to right: Andy Smith (Edge Hill University), Dr Wanda Wyporska (ATL), Laura Boyd (ATL), Christine Clarke (Merseyside Workplace Training), Jon Jones (Edge Hill University)

Pictured from left to right: Andy Smith (Edge Hill University), Dr Wanda Wyporska (ATL), Laura Boyd (ATL), Christine Clarke (Merseyside Workplace Training), Jon Jones (Edge Hill University)

Last week Edge Hill University in partnership with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) union held the first of six workshops designed to address the growing mental health challenges facing education staff and students across the North West.

The Mental Health for Education workshops have been developed in partnership by Edge Hill, the ATL and Everton in the Community in response to the increasing stress placed on educators to address mental health issues being experienced by students, often without any professional training or appropriate qualification to do so.

A recent report co-commissioned by the ATL identified the expectations placed on teachers to meet the ‘time bomb of mental health problems’ (NSPCC, 2015) among pupils as the most common and concerning issue currently facing educational professionals across the UK.

The pressure on teachers to manage student wellbeing is staggering, with the ATL report highlighting that 1 in 10 young people aged between 5 to 16 experience a clinically diagnosable mental illness, with 50% of all adult mental illnesses (excluding dementia) being first experienced during school years at the age 14, and 75% by age 18.

Jon Jones, Partnership Development and Engagement Manager and member of Edge Hill’s Faculty of Education and Department of Sport and Physical Activity said the workshops are the first step in improving the wellbeing of staff and students across the North West.

“There is a growing concern regarding the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people, but also of the educational professionals who are often viewed as responsible for dealing with their pupil’s mental health and wellbeing, as well as their own.

“The six consultation events we have developed as a result of the partnership between Edge Hill University, ATL and Everton in the Community offer a great opportunity for us to gather evidence on the day-to-day real world challenges currently being faced by educational professionals.

“Understanding the needs and challenges related to mental health, wellbeing and education will provide us with an opportunity to not only inform policy and practice, but to work with schools to provide support and training to develop school approaches to mental health and wellbeing and professionals understanding and skills to deal with mental health issues,” Jon said.

ATL general secretary, Dr Mary Bousted, said the North West conferences will lead the Union’s initiatives and actions across the UK.

“ATL is delighted to be a partner in such an important project training and giving education staff the confidence to speak out about mental health issues whether it’s in the classroom or the staffroom.

“We are determined to stamp out the stigma around mental ill health that is preventing young people and education professionals from tackling this crisis.

“ATL’s crucial work in the North West will be rolled out across the country to ensure that our members can support each other and the young people in their classrooms to improve discussions and take action on mental ill health.”

Once the workshops are completed, the Mental Health for Education partnership hopes to have identified common experiences and best practice to inform future school approaches to the mental health and wellbeing of staff and pupils.

The working group also hopes to inform the current and future policy landscape for mental health and education by producing research data on educational professionals’ needs, and the impact of workplace pressures on their mental health and work life.