Find best help for emotional issues

16th July 2004 at 01:00
We were interested in your front-page article "Are teachers more like therapists?" (TES, July 7).

Between us we have many years' experience of working in the field of education (including teacher training) and children's mental health, which has taken us into schools all over the country. The central issue that should be debated in this context is not lesson content but teaching style, organisational ethos and respect.

To suggest that promoting emotional learning is mainly about "touchy-feely" activities aimed at promoting self-esteem is missing the point.

What is far more critical is that teacher training does not concern itself with the emotional development of children, and teachers are therefore not always well-placed to understand the range of factors which affect a child's emotional and mental health and its capacity to learn.

It is clear to us that "good" schools are those which incorporate respect as a fundamental ethos which is applied to all those involved. When this happens the need for classroom time to be spent on promoting self-esteem or on bullying is significantly reduced.

We are also clear that the level of emotional and mental health problems that children are bringing into schools is increasing dramatically and imposing a quite unfair pressure on teachers. Seeing teachers as therapists is neither appropriate nor helpful.

Teachers should, however, expect to receive initial and in-service training which will enable them to recognise emotional and mental health problems when they see them, be able to seek advice when needed and refer to specialist provision as required.

Schools should take advantage of developments in relation to children's trusts and extended schools initiatives to put such support in place.

Tim Barnes Deborah Loeb Thinking for a Living 184-186 Westcombe Hill London SE3

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