Duchess of Cambridge ‘very naive as a parent’ over children’s early development

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Kate made the comments while discussing mental health in education.

The Duchess of Cambridge has said she was “very naive” as a parent about the importance of a child’s early development for their future.

She made the remark during a round table discussion at the Mental Health in Education conference on Wednesday, hosted by The Royal Foundation, at Mercers’ Hall, East London.

“And how critical it is, everyone looking after children at a critical time, teachers, parents, and everyone who’s caring for them, how important it is that we get it right.”

The conference focused on what more could be done to tackle mental health issues in schools and support teachers in the process, bringing together experts from across the mental health and education sectors.

The duchess, wearing a boucle tweed Dolce and Gabbana skirt suit, was introduced by host and broadcaster Kate Silverton, who praised “all the work” Kate has done in the field of education.

The Duchess of Cambridge at the Mental Health in Education conference
Kate told the conference she had been ‘very naive myself as a parent’ (John Stillwell/PA)


The Duchess of Cambridge and Kate Silverton at the Mental Health in Education conference
Kate Silverton said the duchess has been ‘a great driving force’ behind The Royal Foundation’s work supporting children in their earliest years (Chris Jackson/PA)

“They have taught me over and over again that the root cause of so many of today’s social problems can be traced right back to the very earliest years of a person’s life and often over generations.

“The scientific and other evidence is clear, the first few years of a child’s life are more pivotal for development, and for future health and happiness, than any other single moment in our lifetime.

“And as we have heard today, it is therefore vital that we support teachers with their own wellbeing so that they can find the best level of care for all children, in their schools and communities in which they work.”


During a round table focused on mental health training for teachers, the duchess asked if the importance of early child development is part of teacher training.

She said: “I wonder what the base level of the importance of child’s early development is for teachers at the moment. Is that part of the current existing teacher training at all?

“I know from a parent’s perspective it’s certainly not discussed, the importance of childhood development, and I know that’s a different challenge.

“But also the importance of relationship building, empathy and resilience can also be taught and monitored at home as well.”

The Duchess of Cambridge
Kate asked questions about the current training for teachers around a child’s early development (Chris Jackson/PA)

He added: “I feel indeed making teachers solely responsible for that is wrong, is clearly wrong. I think it’s our shared responsibility, responsibility of community, to support the schools, to support the teachers, to support the children.”

In a private meeting before joining the conference, the duchess spoke with teachers who are trialling the Mentally Healthy Schools programme, which she launched in 2018.

The programme is a free-to-access website for schools offering more than 600 mental health resources, such as lesson plans and guides for handling specific issues like bereavement.

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