All of my entire life experience has led me to believe that my children’s mental health is more important than their physical health and their ability to do well at school – if they are resilient then they might find it easier to cope with whatever life throws at them – be it failure at exams or poor physical health.
So, how, I often wonder, can we improve our children’s mental health at school? Well for those of you who haven’t read any of my other blogs, you might be surprised to learn that I have come up with one idea that might help (for those of you that have read one of my other blogs you won’t be surprised).
I believe that one of the most important things that Ofsted (the government organisation that audits educational establishments) can do can to improve the mental health of our children is to start measuring the number of hours teachers work in schools. Now Sharon, you might ask, have you lost the plot? What has this got to do with my children? So let me explain my rather peculiar logic. My little search on Google (who else?) told me something that I already knew – that teachers are overworked. However but it’s always a good idea to throw in a few stats here and there so that people believe you. The search said that 84% of teachers have suffered some sort of mental health problems in the last two years and another survey found that on average teachers work 48.1 hours per week with one in five working 60 hours or more. So basically you are almost guaranteed that your child’s teacher is some emotional wreck (I think what I really mean is stressed) and this person is also supposed to be a role model for your child and influence their behaviour. That’s not good for your child. Plus also it means that it is difficult to recruit teachers which adds extra stress onto everyone one else at school. So I propose that if Ofsted find the teachers are working more than 50 hours a week the school is closed down (OK, that is a bit extreme, but they should at least report it and it should be taken into account when the school is assessed). OK , this sounds good Sharon, you might say, but how can teacher’s reduced their workload? Well, it’s simple – just cut of a lot of all the administrative stuff that is a complete waste of time and energy and doesn’t benefit the children. I am sure this could be achieved by getting a few teachers in a pub for the afternoon and they would surely come up some good ideas. However, in the interest of fairness, let’s spend a couple of million pounds on the exercise, have a few special committees, consult with everyone from Policy Institutes in Brussels to elderly people who don’t have kids in and draw up some plans. My starter for one would be to get rid of SATS (standardised tests for primary school age children). I am confused most of the time, but I have thought about this several times and I am still not sure why kids do them.
I realise that this might not resolve all of children’s mental health problems – more therapists in schools, less pressure on foe exams, improving support to children with neurological problems such as ADHD, dyslexia and Asperger’s Spectrum Disorder, could obviously help but we must view children’s mental health (and indeed teacher’s) in the context in which they are set and that therefore reducing the burden on teacher’s could really help the children that they teach.
And now, to update you on my very own health problems: My hair is at this moment being analysed in a lab somewhere in Germany. It’s in a white envelope with my name, address, and passport number. If anyone happens to be travelling to Germany and sees it, please say hello from me. The results of these tests will let me know if I should have more vitamins or minerals to improve my health.
The doctor at the Epilepsy Hospital has spoken to my London based neuropsychiatrist and is going to seek a second opinion of the results that I got from my stay. This is the kind of doctor that everyone needs – he is prepared to go the extra mile and realises when he can’t help and then knows someone who can.
PS I really do hope that you understand that I have the ability to be tongue in the cheek sometimes (some people don’t get my humour). I do strongly believe that 99% of teachers are doing an excellent job, under difficult circumstances, and that whatever strain they are on they try not to show this to the children that they teach. However, as I said, I do think that reducing the burden on them will help the children in the long run.
 2016 https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/eight-10-teachers-have-had-mental-health-problems-and-workload-blame (Educational Support Partnership)In 2017 75% says that they had experienced physical or mental health issues because of there work and https://www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk/resources/research-reports/2017-health-survey