Choosing Schools: The Importance of Mental Health Awareness with Traditional Teaching

Our first truly important decision as parents is looming: to decide on where our daughter receives her education. If I had it my way I would sell our house and travel the world with just us three. Education through experiencing different cultures would be my preferred method of teaching my daughter about the world in which she lives. However, that is not going to happen so state education it is then



Choosing the right school for our daughter

I have been fairly impressed by the schools around my catchment area. All three academies are vibrant and good Ofsted rated establishments. We have decided on our top three and will be submitting these preferences before the cut-off date in January. All three schools offer something a little different - often quirky in their approach, whilst still operating within the expected curriculum.

What impressed me the most about one of the schools was their attitude toward developing a child's mental health and resilience. More and more children and young people across the country are coming forward to disclose issues relating to their own mental health. This school explained to me how they put an equal emphasis on developing resilience and mental wellbeing as they do into traditional teaching. Education's growing interest in children's mental health is a step in the right direction.

They teach the children the function and workings of the brain - focussing on thoughts, feelings and emotions and how you deal with these throughout life. They encourage development in critical thinking - where children can analyse information to form opinions. All this personal development is taught in a fun, original and engaging way.  

Why mental health awareness should be taught in schools 

Having suffered with bouts of anxiety and depression in adulthood, I can categorically say that I would have benefitted from this combined approach to learning during my school years. It would have provided me with vital understanding and awareness about the brain and how it operates. It may have provided me with specific techniques prior to hitting adulthood for me to be able to manage my own mental health more effectively.

Sadly, this topic of discussion was not discussed often during the 90's. Thankfully, the past few years have brought a monumental shift in attitudes toward mental health and wellbeing across all areas of society. I often use Mindfulness as a tool to help me manage my own mental health. Mindfulness techniques are used in the school I'm considering. It aims to enable children to be more in tune with themselves and to instil a 'living-in-the-moment' thought process, thus providing them with necessary social and emotional tools useful for life. If only this was a focus when I was at school.

Anxious child to mindful adult 

During my school years, I was painfully shy and had very poor social skills. This carried on all the way through to secondary school and beyond, leaving me very frustrated and confused at times. I was academic, so I did well. However I had no idea how to operate as a human inside or outside of the classroom. At school there was an overwhelming obsession with tests and cramming in as much learning as possible. Yes there are benefits to testing children on their skillset, but dealing with tests was a pressure I had no idea how to deal with. There was too much information and no help on how to process it all.

Parenting does come in to play alongside education, but I grew up in an era where you were just expected to get on with it and try your best. There was no thought to the emotional toll this had on children. When I learnt how to write I could suddenly communicate effectively; it was a lifeline. Written word was my preferred method of communication, and still is today. 

Along with a large percentage of people, I believe my anxiety stems from my childhood. Looking back, I think I was confused about the world around me. Frustrated at not being able to confidently communicate verbally. Upset that I had no idea how to deal with my worries. Everything was just bottled up, ready to re-surface in adulthood. Imagine the positive impact for children if they had the emotional techniques and coping mechanisms in place before they reached adulthood.

On the surface, this new focus on emotional stability and wellbeing is an extremely positive change happening today. It aims to confront barriers and empower children to learn about themselves as people, as well as learn how to master the traditional everyday curriculum.

This can only be a good thing, right?

Andy Robinson, Working Dad and Tinies Manny

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