Schools and colleges will benefit from a multi-million training programme run by mental health experts, to help improve how they respond to the emotional impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their students and staff.
Ahead of pupils returning to school and college in September, the Government has announced the scheme will be backed by £8 million to launch the programme, which will provide schools and colleges in England with the knowledge and access to resources they need to support children and young people, teachers and parents.
The autumn term will be the first time many pupils have been with their classmates or colleagues since schools closed to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Wellbeing for Education Return programme starting in September will support staff working in schools and colleges to respond to the additional pressures some children and young people may be feeling as a direct result of the pandemic, as well as to any emotional response they or their teachers may still be experiencing from bereavement, stress, trauma or anxiety over the past months.
The training will be offered to every school and college in England to help support pupil and student wellbeing, resilience and recovery in the context of Covid-19 and to prevent longer-term mental health problems developing, as well as helping to manage and support those who have pre-existing difficulties that may have been exacerbated by coronavirus. Nominated staff will receive the training through interactive webinars, which can then be shared more widely within their school or college. All training materials will also be made available directly to staff to use,
The nationally-developed training programme recognises that teachers and other school and college staff may need additional support to be able to understand the range of reactions young people may have as they return to the classroom and get back on track. It will help give them the confidence to support pupils, their parents, carers and their own colleagues, and know how and where to access appropriate specialist support where needed.
In the weeks leading up to the summer holidays up to 1.6 million children returned to school. The Government says it’s clear that being in the classroom is the best place for every young person’s education and wellbeing and decisions are being guided at every stage by the scientific and medical advice. Detailed guidance sets out the protective measures schools and colleges should put in place ahead of the new term.
The new programme adds to the £9.2 million of Government funding for mental health charities to help families and children during the pandemic.
Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), said: “NAHT welcomes this investment in training to support mental health and wellbeing in schools and colleges. School leaders are deeply concerned about the impact the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown may have had on children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. We want to ensure that that all pupils and staff are supported as they return in September, including those for whom the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has created more serious levels of concern.”
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “It is a national priority to ensure all children are back in their classrooms in September, because that is the best place for them to be for their education, development and wellbeing. Young people are looking forward to getting back to school or college and being reunited with their friends and teachers, and there is a growing confidence among parents about their children returning.
“But this pandemic has impacted people in different ways, particularly young people dealing with the disruption of the last few months but also on our dedicated teachers and education staff, who have responded heroically to the challenges.
“By investing in this tailored training programme, we can help schools and colleges to support their pupils effectively, enabling them to have sensitive and open conversations with pupils.
“Wellbeing for Education Return has been created with input from heath partners, mental health experts, local authorities, and schools and colleges. Part of the funding will be used to recruit local experts to deliver the training programme to nominated staff in schools and colleges, and provide advice to school leaders through to March 2021.”