TEACHERS need more support to deal with a crisis in mental health in the classroom, according to a leading children’s charity.

Barnardo’s Scotland said there were currently gaps in the provision of professional support for education professionals at time when staff are under increasing pressure.

A new discussion paper from the charity said: “If teachers are struggling with their own mental health, how can they be expected to support the children who rely on them the most?”

Martin Crewe, director of Barnardo’s Scotland, said: “What we hear consistently from our own staff working with schools is the gap in provision of support for teaching staff around their mental health and wellbeing.

“When compared with the supervision structures in other sectors, such as health and social care, this gap is stark.”

Barnardo’s Scotland said there was growing evidence teachers were struggling to cope, reflected in levels of staff sickness and absence, as well as issues with recruitment.

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Mr Crewe added: “Where we are present in schools, we are often called upon informally to provide support to teaching staff because there is a lack of any more formal structures.”

The charity says this was a “huge gap” which had the potential to be damaging for teachers and pupils.

Dr Adam Burley, a consultant clinical psychologist, said the report highlighted a staff group who were experiencing “high levels of stress” with little opportunity or place to have it recognised or cared for.

The report was welcomed by School Leaders Scotland, which represents secondary headteachers.

Jim Thewliss, general secretary of SLS, said: “We have been aware for some time of the impact increasing expectations of school leaders in respect of their duty of care to young people is having.

“The wellbeing of colleagues dealing with significantly stressful and distressing situations with little and at times diminishing support is a worry.”

Rosemary Campbell, a teacher at Cuiken Primary School in Midlothian, said enhanced support for teachers would be a welcome step.

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"Education policy and practice has made great leaps forward in recognising the importance of relationships. There is great emphasis on supporting the health and wellbeing of our pupils, and rightly so," she said.

"Schools can often be a safe place for children to communicate that they are finding things difficult and sometimes these needs are shared in a powerful way and can come out in very distressed behaviours.

"Educational staff will be there to offer calm, consistent support and strategies to help the child manage and regulate these huge emotions, but through providing this staff also feel a range of emotions that they too need to learn to manage and deal with effectively in order to be resilient and emotionally ready to support the child, or children, within their care."

Barnardo’s Scotland currently works in over 400 schools across Scotland. A key component of our work is providing Family Support Workers, embedded in the school environment, to support children and their families, we do this work alongside and in partnership with schools.

In many areas this role also includes supporting teaching staff with individual cases as well as wider support around managing and coping with distressed children in school.