The Covid-19 pandemic has been a particularly challenging time, particularly for children and young people who have been unable to attend school or continue with their day-to-day activities. Although they have proven their resilience in challenging and uncertain times, this disruption to routines has led to increased concerns surrounding the mental health and well-being of children.
A new action group, bringing together health and education experts and government ministers, has been formed to meet and discuss the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the mental health of children, young people, and education staff in England.
Action to be taken
The first meeting of the group took place on 9 March 2021. It was agreed that more action was needed in areas including increasing the support which is made available to young children transitioning between schools and year groups, and ensuring that schools and colleges are able to target funding to help pupils who are in most need.
There are also plans to significantly expand mental health services, with an injection of £79m to build on the government’s commitment to provide millions more children and young people with specialist support. There is an aim to have 400 Mental Health Support Teams set up by April 2023, supporting up to three million children and young people. This increase from the 59 teams set up by March 2020 will provide the early intervention on mental health and wellbeing issues in school and colleges which is vitally needed.
The role of education staff
The steps that are being taken demonstrate a recognition that teachers and other school and college staff may need additional support to better understand the varied reactions that pupils and students may have on returning to the classroom.
As well as the additional support being provided directly to children and young adults, education staff will receive increased support to enable them to respond to the emotional and mental health pressures felt by some children and young adults as they return to school during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Wellbeing for Education Return programme, run by mental health experts, has been created with input from experts, local authorities and schools and colleges. This programme, alongside free online psychological training modules, will be used to enable education staff to provide practical and emotional support to children and young people who have been impacted by emergencies or crisis situations.
Schools and colleges play a key role in the development of children and young adults, and providing these additional services will demonstrate that the government and schools are taking action together to support the wellbeing of children and young adults and provide vital resources and practical help to those in need.