Published 18 November 2015

I am sure you will agree that all children deserve time, attention and love from the adults in their lives.

The Duchess of Cambridge

Thank you Catherine for that kind introduction. I was delighted when I was asked to help open today's conference.

I want to start by saying a big thank you to all of the head teachers here today. I know how much is asked of you.

The fact that you are all committing your valuable time to support Place2Be, and prioritise the mental health of your students is something that all parents should be grateful for.

I often get asked why I decided to spend time highlighting the mental health of children. I imagine my answer might be similar to many of yours.

I know that I was lucky. My parents and teachers provided me with a wonderful and secure childhood where I always knew I was loved, valued and listened to.

But of course many children are not so lucky. Since beginning my work in areas like addiction, for example, I have seen time and time again that the roots of poor mental health in adulthood are almost always present in unresolved childhood challenges.

I am sure you will agree that all children deserve time, attention and love from the adults in their lives. These basic qualities are so much more valuable than the always changing material and social concerns that can seem so important to young people.

As today's theme reminds us, many children – even those from stable, happy homes – are finding that their heads are just too full. It is our duty, as parents and as teachers, to give all children the space to build their emotional strength and provide a strong foundation for their future.

Of course, not all children have the anchor of a strong family. Many will arrive through your school gates feeling a real lack of love and devotion in their lives. This often leaves them feeling insecure and without confidence and trust in the world around them. That is why your work is so important.

Parents, teachers and other school staff need the tools to help these young people early in their lives. And the earlier, the better. It is proven that early action prevents problems later in life.

Imagine if everyone was able to help just one child who needs to be listened to, needs to be respected, and needs to be loved – we could make such a huge difference for an entire generation.

As head teachers you have the chance to reach tens of thousands of children during your careers, and make an impact on a great scale. Thank you for making the work of Place2Be part of your mission. I hope you know how much your work is valued.

Thank you - I am really looking forward to the rest of the afternoon