Mental Health in Schools During Coronavirus Pandemic

It’s been almost 6 weeks since our children prepared themselves for the big return to school. It wasn’t the return we all expected but it’s safe to say many of us including parents were keen to place home schooling on hold and hand their children back over to the education experts. 

School staff and senior leadership have been working hard behind the scenes ensuring pupils are kept safe, preventing the spread of the virus where possible. School life appears to have changed drastically and the start of term has been anything but the norm. Education Staff now face increased pressures due to health and safety law, risk assessments and responsibility to carry out enhanced cleaning arrangements, whilst maximising distance between those in school. The anxieties of protecting staff and pupils from COVID-19 are so huge, yet our education staff are still required to plan and deliver lessons with the highest standards of quality. It is also more important than ever for our teachers to provide emotional support to vulnerable children who may be feeling overwhelmed about the uncertainty we are all facing. With this extensive list of multiple tasks and demands, there needs to be a direct focus on staff wellbeing. We need to ensure that staff are supported emotionally and physically to help them perform to the best of their ability ensuring they are better equipped to support pupils. 

We are currently experiencing a second wave with the rate of Coronavirus infections increasing, Anna Freud website have dedicated a page to coronavirus and support for schools and staff. With World Mental Health Day fast approaching on the 10th of October we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share with you some guidance on supporting your staff and pupils through Coronavirus. 

Self- Care for Pupils and Staff 

Choose a buddy in your staff department and share your worries with them, try not to keep it all inside. Now is a time to focus on maintaining a healthy routine including your sleep, exercise and meals. Try to create a balance with these three areas as this will provide some consistency in life especially in a time of uncertainty. 

Encourage pupils to take care of themselves too, introduce breathing exercises into the classroom and talk about healthy eating. Inspire pupils to look after themselves, you can find more ideas on the On My Mind website

Understand what support to offer pupils 

Communicate with pupils and school staff through emails, newsletters, and posters. Try to offer a range of support so there are various ways for them to talk to someone. It is important to dedicate staff members to listen to pupils if they are worried. You can advise pupils to speak to organisations like Childline, The Mix and the Youth Wellbeing Directory as well as local services.

Upskill Staff 

Teachers are good listeners and have brilliant pastoral skills they use with their pupils inside and outside of the classroom. With changing environments and teaching in smaller groups there should be additional guidance on how to communicate with students. Delivering training workshops in schools either in school or virtually will help equip staff to deliver additional pastoral care during Coronavirus. Gain more advice on tips for supporting the most vulnerable children and young people here

Mental Health First Aid Training 

With ongoing pressure caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, it is vital that strategies are put in place to support school staff and their mental wellbeing. Mental Health First Aid training gives us the tools to be able to recognise and understand the effects of poor mental health. We must support ourselves and colleagues using a range of practical support methods. You can visit Cantium or email  for more information. 

Strategies for coping with feelings – Physical sensation strategies 

Barnardo’s have created resources and ideas for young people and their return to school. These strategies can be used for children who may be feeling anxious about COVID-19 and need support to cope with anxiety in school. 

Get pupils in your class to carry out some physical sensation strategies including:

1) Run your hands under cool water

2) Squeeze your pen or grip your chair 

3) Eat an ice lolly

4) Stretch your body, wiggle, and clench your toes

Find more ideas on the Barnardo’s support hub 

If we don’t manage poor mental health this can cause negative effects on our physical wellbeing including sleep deprivation. Find out more about treating anxiety and sleep disturbances on our blog ‘How Anxiety Affects Your Sleep and How to Change It’. 

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