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A blog by Richard Meier

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In her January speech on mental health, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would be providing mental health first aid training to all secondary schools, with a commitment to train at least one teacher in every secondary school in mental health first aid by 2019.

The announcement followed that contained within a report published by the Early Intervention Foundation in December last year, which recommended that schools play a role in ‘identifying children and families affected by parental conflict, signposting to other services or supporting children through school counselling initiatives’, and that 'schools and teachers [be] another access point to identify inter‐parental conflict in the home' (EIF, 2016).

In parallel with these developments, the Health Select Committee and the Education Select Committee are running a joint enquiry into the role of educational settings in children’s mental health. The Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition’s submission to this enquiry supported the EFI’s recommendation regarding schools having this greater role in identifying children affected by parental conflict, arguing that ‘with appropriate training and support, school staff are very able to recognise and support less severe mental health and emotional wellbeing issues in their pupils; and potentially are in a good position to identify risk factors that might impact on mental health, e.g. parental conflict’.

In her speech, the Prime Minister stated that the Government ‘will pilot new approaches such as offering mental health first aid training for teachers and staff to help them identify and assist children experiencing mental health problems. And we will trial approaches to ensure schools and colleges work closer together with local NHS services to provide dedicated children and young people’s mental health services.’

Tavistock Relationships is in the process of developing a new course for teachers on understanding and working with the impact of inter-parental conflict on young people in schools. This course will aim to assist teachers, educational support staff and counsellors within the school setting, understand the nature of inter-parental conflict and its impact on children and young people.

The course will also be helpful in thinking about techniques and ways of intervening which support staff to manage and contain challenging and problematic behaviour from young people whose exposure to inter-parental conflict at home is being played out in the school environment. 

We hope to pilot the course in the summer term, with a view to delivering it in schools from the autumn.