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Press release

Half of UK teachers don’t feel confident helping pupils with their mental health

Teachers want mental health training - 97% say it’s important they receive it


9 Jul 2021


A new survey of secondary school teachers and heads has found that despite wanting training to support pupils' mental health, many aren't getting it. This survey precedes a report due out which will look at what schools can do.

A new survey for the children’s charity, the Early Intervention Foundation, has found that half of UK secondary school teachers do not feel confident in addressing the mental health needs of pupils. Almost all of the respondents (97%) expressed a desire to receive training in supporting young people’s mental health, with two thirds of teachers (65%) stating they haven’t received any training related to mental health in the last twelve months. The desire for training was very high through all levels of seniority within schools, including headteachers.  

Dr Jo Casebourne, chief executive, Early Intervention Foundation commented: “We know that supporting young people’s mental health is a priority for secondary schools, now more than ever. It is essential that teachers are adequately trained to support young people in the development of essential life skills including, for example, emotional regulation, communication skills, coping skills, and conflict resolution skills. The results from our survey highlight the need for high-quality continuing professional development to enhance teachers’ competencies. We mustn't see mental health as a tick box exercise - it’s an ongoing process.” 

The new survey (conducted by Teacher Tapp) findings, precede a report due out later this month from the Early Intervention Foundation that will provide insights into how schools can best support young people’s mental health and wellbeing. The report is the most significant review of the evidence in the last decade on what works to support young people’s mental health.  

The report from the Early Intervention Foundation will show that school-based interventions, when delivered to a high standard, can improve young people’s wellbeing, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and reduce aggressive behaviour and bullying.  

The results indicate that one of the most effective ways Gavin Williamson can help schools is to incentivise and support the use of evidence-based universal and targeted interventions. This should be done as part of a whole school approach, including classroom teaching and creating a supportive school environment, to address young people’s needs.  

Practical examples of whole school interventions exist. ‘Learning Together’ is a UK programme designed to tackle bullying and aggressive behaviour, which has shown small but sustained reductions in bullying in one long-term evaluation, as well as additional benefits relating to psychological functioning, wellbeing and quality of life. 

Other early findings from the report will show that: 

•    Classroom teachers can effectively deliver universal programmes which are delivered to all pupils. Examples include interventions designed to enhance young people’s social and emotional skills  
•    There is good evidence that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) interventions, when delivered to young people with subclinical symptoms by external professionals (for example, phycologists), are effective in reducing symptoms of depression in both the short and medium-term 
•    High quality implementation is critical to achieving programme outcomes, which highlights the need to invest in teacher training to ensure the investment in these interventions is worthwhile.  

Improvement in mental health after the pandemic is clearly needed. Another survey for the Early Intervention Foundation by the NFER, found that 62% of the secondary school teachers said they have seen teenage pupils presenting with mental health problems who weren’t previously known by staff at their school to have these problems. A stark juxtaposition with the only 4% who had observed no major changes in the last twelve months. 



EIF examined published research using longitudinal data sets which span adolescence (12–18 years) and adult life (19+ years). From our search of academic papers, 166 studies in total were considered potentially relevant. Of these, we reviewed 72 in full, and extracted relevant data.  
About the Teacher Tapp survey: 

The Teacher Tapp survey, surveyed 4,504 secondary school teachers in the UK in June 2021.   
Teacher Tapp is a mobile app that asks teachers in England three questions each day at 3:30pm. Analysis in these tables is restricted to those teachers with a valid school identifier and key information. The sample is reweighted to ensure it reflects the national population of teachers in terms of: the type of school they teach at; their geographical region; their gender and age; their job role. 

About the Teacher Voice (NFER) survey: 

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) March 2021 Teacher Voice Omnibus survey, surveyed a panel of 1,535 practising teachers from 1,349 schools in the publicly funded sector in England completed the survey. The panel is representative of teachers from the full range of roles in primary and secondary schools, from headteachers to newly qualified class teachers. Teachers completed the survey online during the period 12 to 17 March 2021. The figures in this release represent the 719 (46.8%) respondents who are teaching in secondary schools. 

About EIF:  

The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) is an independent charity that champions and supports the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children and young people at risk of experiencing negative outcomes. For more information, see:      

Andy Ross, Senior Press Officer – 07949 339 975 / 

About the contributor

Dr Jo Casebourne

Jo is CEO at What Works for Early Intervention and Children's Social Care.