Recent media coverage suggests that issues such as self-harm, suicide, eating disorders, drug and alcohol dependency and social media 'trolling' are worryingly prevalent amongst children and young people.
The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) has launched new guidance to support teachers by highlighting preventative measures; identifying which pupil behaviour might be a cause for concern; and suggesting actions which should be taken to intervene.
Ed Sipler, Health Development Specialist for Alcohol and Drugs in the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust, believes the guidance actually goes beyond supporting teachers:
"The reality for many of our young people across Northern Ireland is they are experiencing difficulties stemming from domestic violence, parental substance misuse, mental health issues or other factors that impede their education. When adults were asked, who and what helped them most when growing up, teachers were identified as a powerful source of support. This guidance shows how to build that support. The Guidance has benefits that go beyond supporting teachers. It has potential for all of us across Health Trusts, the voluntary sector and communities who are working to improve the lives of children and young people across Northern Ireland. It is an invaluable resource."
The resource is being launched on the back of the Northern Ireland Suicide Prevention Strategy, 'Protect Life: A Shared Vision', which suggests that educational settings are key for the development of emotional well-being and resilience in children and young people.
Richard Hanna, CCEA's Chief Executive commented:
"The emotional well-being and mental health of our learners is extremely important to us and any help that we can provide to teachers in improving this in schools is always a priority in our work. Our new resource has been designed to assist teachers, school leaders and school governors in developing a culture of support and empathy in schools, which will assist in the improvement of protective factors for all our learners and particularly those at risk of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties (SEBD). Feedback from teachers has stated that this resource will be extremely useful and I hope that this support provided by CCEA can assist in the further promotion of good mental health in our schools."
Attending the launch event, Helene Graham, Vice Principal of Strathearn School said:
"The very practical guidance it provides will be of great assistance to subject teachers who are trying to be proactive in identifying pupils with such additional educational needs as well as the members of the Pastoral Team who are trying to support these very vulnerable pupils on a day to day basis. We had already carried out work on trying to guide staff on building resilience amongst pupils in Strathearn – Ed Sipler's workshop helped to confirm the value of moving in this direction."
The guidance is designed for teachers of pupils aged from 3 years – 19 years. It can be downloaded, along with useful resources designed by Ed Siplder for building resilience in school staff and pupils, 'Bouncing Back' and 'Bend Don't Break'
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