A New Era for Wellbeing in Schools

Wellbeing in education

A milestone in the journey to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic occurred in early March: children and teenagers in the UK went back to school. After a major interruption to their development—of which so much is connected to places of education and the social interactions they facilitate—they have taken the first major step towards their post-pandemic lives.

For teachers too, after facing a drastic shift in their profession, from face-to-face to online instruction, they have now also returned to their classrooms.

Naturally, it isn’t going to be easy, as scores of studies have shown that the mental health and wellbeing of both children and teachers has been severely impacted by the global health and economic crisis.

I’ve written extensively about how Covid-19 has affected the mental health and wellbeing of adults, but in this post I’ll focus on the younger generations and their teachers.

The ‘parallel pandemic’ of poor mental health

One in six children and young people experienced a mental health difficulty in 2020,  according to research commissioned by NHS. Further, many of those who experienced a drop in mental health did so for the first time; 46% of parents said their child’s mental health has suffered for the first time ever as a result of the pandemic, according to The Covid Kids: The State of Our Children’s Wellbeing survey.

Overall, 70% of parents with children between the ages of 11 and 16 said their children’s wellbeing had suffered during the pandemic, a YouGov survey found.

The results of these UK studies reflect research findings worldwide, which is exactly why Dr Hans Kluge, Head of WHO Europe, has stated that “Poor mental health has become a parallel pandemic.”

Returning to school isn’t enough for children to ‘bounce back’

With lockdowns easing and students and teachers entering physical classrooms rather than Zoom rooms, one of the most significant elements to consider is that stepping into the schoolground and reuniting with friends won’t be enough to help young people “bounce back”.

In a paper published by the Institute for Social and Economics Research, academics revealed that “going back to school in itself does not appear to be sufficient” for children to return to pre-pandemic levels of wellbeing, The Telegraph Reported.  

One of the authors of the paper, Dr Birgitta Rabe of Essex University, said: “Our results suggest that the effects of school closures on children’s wellbeing are large, and that they may take some time to mend.” She emphasized that “additional support for children’s mental health and wellbeing is likely to be required for some time.”

Over a third of UK teachers have lost their spark for education

It will come as no surprise that as well as students, teachers have also reported severe challenges to their mental health and wellbeing during the lockdowns. I’m sure we can all agree that it would be hard enough to hold the attention of a classroom full of kids and encourage them to focus in a real world setting. It’s therefore only natural that having to deliver lessons online has taken an enormous toll on teachers’ occupational stress levels.

To discover more about the impact of the pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of educators, more than 1,200 teachers from education institutions across the UK were interviewed.

Compared to how they felt before Covid-19, the study found that 35% of teachers surveyed have “lost their passion for teaching”. Even more severe is that 85% of teachers stated that they have been feeling anxious or overwhelmed due to working remotely, school closures, and increased expectations.

Another key finding of the survey is that 78% of teachers feel that the government could be doing more to support mental health during the pandemic, with almost half stating that “not enough is being done”.

What is most remarkable about the findings of the YouGov survey mentioned above is that 65% of UK parents believe wellbeing is a key factor in choosing a child’s secondary school, while only half said the same of exam results.

This means that two-thirds of the parents who participated in the survey see their child’s wellbeing as more important than academic performance.

“Rebuild childhood”

The impact of the pandemic on children, teenagers and young people’s lives has prompted England’s new commissioner for children, Dame Rachel de Souza, to say that she wants to “rebuild childhood”. She even compared the challenges ahead to reconstructing the social security system in the wake of World War Two.

“Our response to the trauma of the Second World War was to create a blueprint for a social service system and a National Health Service that improved our lives. We have the chance to do the same again now for children,” Dame Rachel told the BBC.

It comes as welcome news to us at Raw Horizons that a spokeswoman for the Department for Education recently told the BBC: “We’ve expanded frontline charity support and provided new resources for schools and teachers to support children and young people’s mental health.”

The spokeswoman added that: “Our £1.7bn investment in recovery support will help tackle the impact of any lost learning and we are investing an additional £79m to increase the number of mental health support teams working with schools and colleges.”

Now is the time for schools to invest in Wellbeing Coaches

From educators to policymakers, everyone across the UK’s education system recognizes that the mental health and wellbeing of teachers and students needs to form a core part of the school day.

Amanda Spielman, the Chief Inspector of OFSTED, has stated that they are “expecting a new area” for their Education Inspection Framework, where “the emphasis is on the welfare and wellbeing of teachers and pupils, and no longer focused on data and statistics.”

Now more than ever, schools need wellbeing coaches to support both students and teachers. The role of a wellbeing coach is to re-motivate, re-inspire, re-energise, and help people achieve more out of life, which is exactly why their skills and expertise are becoming increasingly sought-after during this important period of recovery.

By skillfully listening, questioning, reflecting, encouraging, challenging, and supporting an individual —whether they be a young person or a teacher—a wellbeing coach guides them to look to the future by helping them design and execute their own solutions to their problems and challenges.

I strongly believe that there has never been a more important time to become a wellbeing coach.

Click here to find out more about training to become a Wellbeing Coach, and how you can support the mental health of students and teachers now and into the future.


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