COLLEGE OF MEDICINE AND HEALTH
Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health Professions

Professor Ford originally trained as psychiatrist before embarking on her current research

CBE for expert working to transform schools and children’s mental health services

An expert working to improve the mental health of children has been awarded CBE for her role in helping to transform health services and schools in the UK.

Professor Tamsin Ford investigates how to improve interventions and service organisation to improve children and young people’s mental health. She works with those running the services such as parents, teachers and paediatricians as well as children and young people.

Professor Ford, awarded CBE for services to psychiatry, has been part of the team who carries out the official national, annual survey of children’s mental health since it began 20 years ago.

Information gathered as part of the survey has led to dramatic changes in services offered, and the way children are now supported. Recommendations from Professor Ford and other experts mean teachers and others working with children now liaise more closely.

Professor Ford’s work is regularly cited in government and NHS and more recently education policy documents and she has also advised Ofsted about mental health in relation to the new inspection framework.

Professor Ford, who originally trained as psychiatrist before embarking on her current research, said: “I was startled and grateful to receive notification that I had been awarded CBE, I initially thought the letter was a tax demand.  I have been very lucky to find a job that is so fascinating and rewarding and I hope my contribution has and will continue to improve the mental health of children and young people.

“I work with children because I saw as a doctor how mental health services have the biggest impact on the young. Mental health difficulties often start in childhood, but early intervention can make a real difference. I want to make services better for everyone, and to make sure all those working with children have the ability to detect distress and then intervene.”

Professor Ford is currently examining if a course called “Incredible Years Teacher Classroom Management” can enhance teachers’ skills in promoting well-being among their pupils. So far she has found it can have a sustained improvement in concentration and low level classroom behaviour. The work led to a team of colleagues from Exeter leading a review for the Education Endowment Fund about how best to support children to behave better in school.

This work strongly suggests teachers should ignore low-level disruptive behaviour in the classroom to reduce it, and rewarding well-behaved pupils with praise – instead of focusing attention on poorly-behaved students – can improve the behaviour and mental health of school children.

Professor Ford's research also shows excluded children are more likely to develop mental health conditions, a fifth of 17 to 19-year-old girls self-harm or attempt suicide and six times more children self-report mental illness than 20 years ago.

Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter said: “This is a well-deserved honour for Tamsin, who has done so much to transform health services and schools in the UK. Her work is providing valuable evidence and being used to improve public services.”

Date: 9 June 2019

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