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During this time of disruption and uncertainty, prioritising wellbeing and conversations around mental health is of upmost importance, but it can be challenging to do this.
The pandemic has raised lots of concerns around isolation, anxiety and the lack of stimulation, so it is important to find ways to help support learners who may be struggling with their mental and emotional wellbeing.
If you are concerned about a child, the first thing you should do is raise this with your head of safeguarding at school, outlining your concerns. One way to monitor your learners is to set up regular opportunities for them to check in with you and other learners in a safe space where they feel comfortable to share how they are feeling. You can set up regular email contact with your learners to make sure that they know they have someone who is listening to them.
Another way to look out for learners’ mental health is to encourage them to reflect on the positive elements of lockdown learning. Many learners have flourished while learning remotely as they have not had the stress of attending school in a physical setting. Encourage your learners to reflect on and share what they have learnt from lockdown and see if you can incorporate these techniques into your school policies and classroom practice. You can help your learners reflect on their own wellbeing by:
Test anxiety and feeling worried about taking exams is very normal. Your learners may be feeling more anxious about taking tests now because of the number of students in the exam hall or because they feel that they have missed out on classroom time. Again, if a child is struggling to cope with their feelings of anxiety around taking the exams you should refer them to your head of wellbeing or your pastoral lead so they can organise support.
We know that taking exams after the pandemic is potentially quite daunting because of the concern that learners have not had enough classroom time. However, it is important to remind learners of what they achieved when learning remotely. It can be a useful exercise to recap all the learning you did as a class and share some successes to help with learner confidence. Another way to capture any worries or concerns your learners have about preparing for their tests is to have dedicated time slots where learners can voice their concerns around certain topics.
If your school organises revision sessions, then reassure your learners that they will have time to revise to prepare for their exams. These can be useful sessions to target specific areas that your learners feel less confident in. If you do not run specific revision sessions, it can be useful to discuss effective revision techniques with your learners to help them focus their time. It is also important that learners find a balance between revision and exam preparation, and taking time to rest. Encourage learners to be mindful of burnout and fatigue, and to take regular breaks in preparation for their exams.
Supporting emotional wellbeing when returning to the classroom (PDF, 149KB)
How to manage stress and learn effectively at home - tips for students (PDF, 135KB)
Below are websites and resources to support learners with their mental health. These can be a good starting point to having discussions with your colleagues, parents and learners about how best to look after their mental health.
You should keep the following in mind when recommending resources to your learners.
Young Minds is a charity that provides support and advice for young people, teachers and parents on how to access the best support for mental health.
Childline provides counselling for children on a range of mental health and general health issues. It is a completely confidential service that can be accessed over the phone or online.
BBC Bitesize has a range of practical tips to deal with exam stress.
The Mental Health Foundation is part of the national mental health response during the coronavirus outbreak. They provide tips for schools on how to deal with mental health issues in response to Covid-19.
These websites highlight how to implement mental health initiatives and conversations in school and demonstrate ways you can integrate mental health support into your school policies.
The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families has produced a booklet for primary and secondary schools to help learners look after their mental health.
High Speed Training outlines some of the ways you can help your learners manage their mental health in the school setting. They also offer a range of training and support solutions to deepen your knowledge.
Place2Be has produced a series of activities for you to use in your classroom to foster conversations around mental health and wellbeing.
These websites could be shared with parents and carers at your school to help them access support at home.
This blog from the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families offers five steps for promoting wellbeing.
This blog from The Priory Group discusses how to help children manage their anxiety about returning to school after lockdown. It gives practical guidance to address any fears children may have about being in the classroom again.
Parentzone has targeted support for parents and has a page discussing the challenges of home learning and the transition back to school.
These websites discuss test anxiety and give some useful tips for how learners can cope with feeling stressed about taking exams.
Mind is a mental health charity that wants to challenge the stigma around mental health issues. They share 14 ways to beat exam stress and look after your mental health.
In this blog, Ofqual offers some helpful ways that you can talk to your learners about exam anxiety.
TeensHealth is a website for learners, parents and teachers that discusses all aspects of mental and physical health. They have dedicated pages on test anxiety to support learners.
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