As a society we are increasingly preoccupied with our mental health and wellbeing. But do we know how to help children deal with the stresses and strains, sadness and scariness of life both in and out of the classroom? Place2Be is a vital part of the response to the question. As the leading provider of mental health support and training to teachers and pupils in schools across the UK, this increasingly visible charity (HRH the Duchess of Cambridge is a patron) is also the driving force behind Children’s Mental Health Week. Former teacher turned management consultant turned CEO Catherine Roche recalls her school days.
Truant or treat?
Definitely treat – I was not a rule breaker! I even got to ring the bell to round us back into class after lunch!
A teacher you want to thank and why?
Miss Fahy, my English and Career guidance teacher in secondary school. She was someone who really broadened my horizons and aspirations. She made me think for the first time about what I might be good at or enjoy, rather than going with what others might have anticipated would be the choices I would make.
Headmistress for the day?
I’d bring in inspiring speakers with lots of different skills or talents and from different career paths. I think broadening horizons and raising aspirations to encourage all young people to be the best they can be and reach for the stars is so important.
English and maths (in a relative sort of way!)
Bottom of the class?
Urgh PE sadly! I had a definite dread of the vaulting box and couldn’t do somersault to save my life! Pretty rubbish at physics too!
State or independent?
Ballinameela National School (a small rural school in Ireland) and St Anne’s Post Primary, Cappoquin, County Waterford.
How did your school years suggest your route through later life?
I always loved a mix of both more structured subjects like maths and science and more creative subjects like the arts and English.
That really reflects the way we are at Place2Be. We put a lot of emphasis on gathering data and building an evidence base to understand more about what works and how we can continue to refine and improve our services. But ultimately what we do is really about people and relationships and also draws on the creative side of things.
What did your school years not prepare you for?
Preparation for the very real world of work… career choices… and confidence. I always hated standing in front of the class. To be honest I still get nervous every time I have to stand up to speak but over the years I’ve been lucky enough to work with some fantastic people and mentors who have encouraged me out of my comfort zone.
What advice would you give to a child in school today?
Believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to be different, to explore new things, ask questions and find out what you really like.
Do you think you are well educated?
I was very lucky to have parents who believed in the power of education to give you the foundations in life to do whatever you want to do, so yes, I think I have good foundations. In my role I am privileged to work closely with many experts who are genuine leaders in their fields and so generous with their time and expertise. I am always acutely aware that there is so much more to learn, whatever the topic.