Research helps 'trouble-makers' in the classroom

Fewer school children with mental health conditions could be labelled as 'trouble-makers' thanks to new official Government guidance to teachers, which has been informed by research from a Roehampton professor.

Posted: 18 June 2014

image for news story Research helps  'trouble-makers' in the classroom
Professor Mick Cooper, whose research has helped inform official guidance on children with mental health issues.

Studies by Mick Cooper, Professor of Counselling Psychology at the University of Roehampton, have been drawn on for the 46 page Department for Education guidance. The guidance will help teachers better identify underlying mental health problems in young people and the range of interventions that may help.

Its publication this week means more pupils with unmet mental health needs may get the help they need earlier.

Professor Cooper said: “Research shows that young people with mental health issues can find it difficult to concentrate and learn at school; addressing them early could help to make the most of their education.

“My hope is that Roehampton research will help improve the lives of children and teenagers who perhaps have been unfairly maligned in the past. Until now, teachers may not always have had the information required to make judgments on how best to help young people. That’s why this DfE advice is sorely needed, so that teaching staff are more aware of how to spot indicators and refer onwards as appropriate.”

The guidance promotes the use of pupil questionnaires, teacher training toolkits and mental health factsheets to help identify potential issues. It outlines how schools can provide a stable environment for their pupils, including:

  • Creating clear policies to deal with bullying and behaviour issues.
  • Working with parents and carers as well as pupils.
  • Introducing peer mentoring systems.
  • Discussing mental health issues as part of the wider curriculum.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss MP, who launched the guidance, said: “Too many young people are unfairly labelled as trouble-makers when in fact they have unmet mental health problems. We know schools want clear guidelines on how best to separate poor behaviour from underlying mental health issues.

“Teachers understandably sometimes feel uncertain about what exactly they should do, or when to act…but those who know how and when to help can make all the difference for children with mental health problems.”

The full Government guidance document is called Mental Health and Behaviour in Schools. It was created by the Department for Education in consultation with headteachers, mental health professors including Professor Cooper, and the Department of Health.

Professor Cooper’s research project, originally published in 2013, which fed into the guidance was titled School-based Counselling in UK Secondary Schools: A review and critical evaluation.

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