Michelle Smith Blog, Education
In March 2020, the first UK COVID-19 national lockdown was introduced and schools were closed, except to children whose parents were essential workers, or to those who were considered ‘vulnerable’.
With the restrictions that commenced across the UK, an unprecedented situation took place that drastically affected our lives. Pupil’s experience of the pandemic were varied. Some, despite restrictions, have felt safe and mostly enjoyed their time. For others, it has been extremely challenging. Schools and teachers are well versed in supporting pupils through difficulties in their everyday lives, but the lockdown will have amplified these challenges many times over.
This brings to question, how much time in a school day should be allocated to mental health?
There has been a huge focus on the wellbeing of students and their mental health. Some schools have adopted a ‘whole-school approach’, while others have focused on providing individual interventions where possible due to resources or other constraints. A lot of children and young people will have dealt with loss and bereavement during the pandemic, due to coronavirus or other illnesses; an extremely mature circumstance that may have been previously eased by the escapism of going to school.
For other young people, there will have been other types of loss, for example, parents who were furloughed or have lost their jobs, or they may have experienced long-term isolation from important figures in their lives such as friends or grandparents. Many children and young people already experience challenging home environments, and school often acts as a safe haven away from worry and stress.
The sudden and inconsistent changes we have experienced during the pandemic may have led to many young people feeling uncertain. Pupils may have worried that school was no longer a crutch they could rely on to make them feel safe, as part of a community or in a routine.
COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of supporting children’s mental health and wellbeing. There has also been an increasing pressure on schools to prioritise this since schools reopened, and as they return again in September. Young Minds conducted a survey with 2,100 students, reporting on their mental health during and after restrictions were lifted. Respondents highlighted that ‘seeing friends, seeing teachers and returning to a routine has been positive for their mental health’ (https://www.youngminds.org.uk/media).
A challenge here is perhaps seeing mental health as a separate subject, where time is slotted out accordingly to focus on improvement. Mental health encompasses a wide range of cross curricular skills, such as communication, coping-mechanisms, self-motivation and goal setting to name a few. It is a wonder whether these elements should be embedded across all parts of the curriculum.
It will be hard to gauge the full impact the pandemic has had on children and young people’s mental health until we emerge from it fully. There will be more challenges ahead for children in schools after a huge amount of time out of the classroom, but we need to make sure that support is present. This year, more than any other year, we need to ensure that wellbeing is at the core of our education system.
Every mind matters and it is important to remember that there is no wrong or right way for pupils to have responded. Panoramic Care work largely in this sector and take an interest into the importance of wellbeing for pupils and teachers alike. If you have any thoughts on how mental health should be approached within schools after the pandemic, please feel free to get in touch here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, if you would like to find out more about the work that we do, please click here: https://www.panoramiccare.com/about