Behaviour policies must become trauma-aware post-lockdown

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

School behaviour policies post-lockdown must take into account the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic and “reflect how behaviour could relate to trauma or emotional distress”.

This is the plea from charity YoungMinds amid fresh concerns about the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on the mental health of young people.

New research from the charity shows that 74 per cent of teachers believe the mental health of young people has been affected during the lockdown, including a heightened risk of issues such as anxiety and from children spending more time in “unsuitable home environments”.

The charity has renewed its calls for additional pastoral support, such as in-school counselling, to be made available as pupils return. It is also calling for the next academic year to become a period of re-adjustment when we give young people time and space to talk about their experiences and take part in activities that help them to reflect and re-socialise.

The research involved 1,135 teachers and school staff and was carried out between May 15 and June 1. It finds that 88 per cent of respondents agreed that a lack of structure and routine has had an effect on student wellbeing, while 79 per cent thought that increased anxiety stemming from the pandemic has also had an impact. A further 73 per cent reported concern about some young people spending more time in unsuitable home environments and 78 per cent reported that additional pastoral support, such as in-school counselling, would be helpful.

Emma Thomas, chief executive of YoungMinds, said: “We know that the coronavirus pandemic has had a profound impact on the lives of millions of children and young people across the country. In some cases, they have been through traumatic experiences at home, witnessing abuse or the deaths of friends and family, while others have struggled with missing friends, losing the structure of school or no longer being able to access the support they rely upon. If we don’t support young people now, the long-term impact could be huge.

“While returning to school is likely to be positive for many young people’s mental health, the readjustment following a long break and the changes schools are having to make to their environment and timetables will be very challenging for many. Schools need to be able to make wellbeing their top priority now and through the autumn term, and need government support to help them to do that.

“We know that around a third of schools currently do not provide school-based mental health support, and that many young people who are struggling to cope may not meet the criteria for NHS mental health services in their area. That’s why we are calling on the government to provide ring-fenced funding to ensure that schools can bring in extra support where it’s needed to help pupils and parents.”

Around 10,000 people have so far signed YoungMinds’ petition calling for the government to support young people’s mental health during this pandemic.

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