12 September 2017

Teachers should be allocated sufficient time, training and resources to enable them to promote positive mental health amongst students, according to a report on Positive Mental Health in Schools which was launched by the Joint Committee on Education and Skills today, Tuesday, 12 September 2017.

Each school needs a strategy to enable them achieve a whole schools approach to mental health, according to the report which called on the Minister for Education and Skills and the Minister with special responsibility for Mental Health and Older People to work together in order to
promote mental resilience.

Among the report’s recommendations are:

•    The critical role of teachers in creating a culture of whole-school mental health needs to be recognised and supported. Teachers should be allocated sufficient time, training and resources to enable them to promote positive mental health amongst students.
•    Teachers and students need the time and opportunity to be able to listen to one another and develop caring relationships.
•    Teachers and schools should be provided with the resources necessary to enable each student to participate fully in schools through encouraging and developing his or her particular talents and strengths.
•    Positive measures to counteract bullying such as the anti-bullying ambassador’s project now running in a number of schools which supports a friendly positive and respect culture in schools with a strong emphasis on eliminating bullying where it occurs should be implemented.
•    Students need to feel connected to their community. Children and young people should be provided with the opportunity to participate and engage in both the local community and school community.
•    There needs to be enhanced collaboration between schools and state agencies in order to support students and teachers alike. (For example a team of mental health professionals may be designated to a particular region and they would be responsible for responding to the needs of all schools within that region).
•    The Committee recommends that sufficient time and resources is allocated to ensure the promotion and support of positive mental health throughout the school community.
•    It is recommended that teacher training programme be revised to incorporate a module of resilience and promoting positive mental health in schools.
•    The Committee recommends a review of the current college entry system which places an emphasis on academic achievement resulting in additional stress on children and young people.
•    To establish an Expert Group to investigate the appropriateness, feasibility and best practice approach regarding the introduction of mindfulness in primary schools, particularly with a view to creating a standardised system, if possible, for all teachers.
•    To investigate the introduction of school-based counselling.
•    To explore the provision of psychotherapy training and other further professional development to guidance counsellors in secondary schools which may be the most cost-effective method to provide access to counselling in schools.

Committee Chair Fiona O’Loughlin, TD said: “The Committee recognises that mental health issues are complex and there is no one size fits all solution. We are aware however, that school and the interactions between teachers and students play a hugely important role in promoting positive mental health amongst young people. In issues regarding mental health, early intervention is critical.

The education system must support children to be confident and have the ability to achieve their full potential in whatever role they take. The mental health of children should be placed at the heart of the education system, but more needs to be done to support students and teachers both inside and outside the classroom and there needs to be greater integration between the whole community and schools in order to effectively promote positive mental health in schools.

Adopting the recommendations in this report would put the needs of both teachers and students first and allow teachers have the resources necessary to ensure that all interactions between teachers and students are constructive and promote positive mental health among the school community as a whole.”

Read the report here: http://beta.oireachtas.ie/en/committees/32/education-and-skills/

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Committee membership

Deputies

Sinn Féin

Green Party

Fianna Fáil

Fine Gael

Fianna Fáil