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Mental Health must be a priority in schools, says campaigners

Mental health must be the heart of the UK’s education system when schools reopen after the COVID-19 lockdown, argued children’s charity Barnardo’s.

The children’s charity believes the government could miss “a once-in-a-generation opportunity” if it does not allow schools to tackle the emotional impact of the pandemic on children.

According to Barnardo’s, coronavirus has exposed UK children and young people to an unprecedented level of trauma, loss and adversity. 

A survey conducted by 'Time for a Clean Slate: Children’s Mental Health at the Heart of Education' found that 88% of school staff said the pandemic is likely to have an effect on the mental health and wellbeing of their pupils.

A further 26% of staff said they did not feel confident they had the tools, skills or resources to support their pupils in this way.

Barnardo’s are calling on the government to allow the proposal by the chairman of the Education Select Committee, Robert Halfon, to introduce a catch up pupil premium for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils.

This would enable teachers to help their pupils reintegrate into the school environment, re-socialise with their friends, and change the structure of the day so it is more centred on pastoral care, play, creative outlets and outdoor activities.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:

"We know children who were already vulnerable before the crisis have been badly affected, and with families now under increasing financial and emotional pressure, more children are now living in poverty and at risk of abuse.

"Many more are struggling with anxiety, depression and other mental health problems, now largely hidden from the view of teachers and professionals."

Khan added, “The government should also take this once in a generation opportunity to rebalance the school system, recognising that children rely on school to keep them safe and well, just as much as they need it to pass exams."


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