a teacher speaks to students at their desksShould teacher training programs instruct future teachers in how to support their students’ health and well-being? Research from an inter-departmental collaboration between the Southampton Education School and Medicine at the University of Southampton has found that health education issues are not much discussed in initial teacher education (ITE) courses in England. The study is the first of its kind to address the fact that there is no standard for teacher education regarding the promotion of health and student well-being. The authors call for improved teacher training so teachers can adequately support students’ holistic educational needs.

The researchers surveyed the managers of ITE courses in England, sending questionnaires to 220 course managers in higher education institutions and in other educational venues. Seventy-four of the surveys were returned. The researchers also conducted in-depth interviews with 19 course managers.

The findings indicate that there is little attention given to health issues in ITE programs. They found that public health issues are not emphasized in ITE courses and when such issues are taught, there is not much consistency in what is taught and how because there are no standards. The respondents stated that teacher training curricula give greater emphasis to emotional health, which is considered more relevant for educators, than to issues like healthy eating, exercise, or substance use. The main obstacle to including health and wellness training in ITE courses is that there is not enough time to fit it into the program amid into the curriculum amid the many other topics. There is also a perception in education that health issues are not as important for teachers.

This study was conduced in the United Kingdom, but the results are likely applicable for teacher training programs in the United States, which are similarly inconsistent from state to state. The researchers stated that they want to do more research on the feasibility and effectiveness of including health and wellness issues in ITE curricula.

This research is published in the Journal of Public Health.

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