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Post lockdown secondary school students emotional/wellbeing support

Simon March 16, 2021 18:48

Hi to all adoptive parents of secondary school age children!

I fear this is a bit of a missive!

Please can you share with me your advice/experiences of the additional emotional and welfare support that your children’s secondary school is providing post lockdown? I am looking to share all good ideas and suggestions with my children’s secondary school.

Sadly, I don’t think I’m the only adoptive parent disappointed with our children’s secondary school response to creating additional emotional and wellbeing support since returning to school last week. This is despite all the talk during the lockdown in the news, from politicians, the children’s commissioner and head teachers etc, concerning the importance of supporting ALL students with their emotional wellbeing on their return to school.

I have spoken to a few other adoptive parents and they have felt pretty much the same. It feels like there's an increased emphasis on behaviour and students complying with the rules. Examples of this have been student exclusions in the first few days back e.g. a student’s refusal to remove noise piercings and recolour pink hair back to a natural colour. A Letter from a head teacher complaining about poor support from parents relating to student compliance e.g. use of mobile phones in school and aggressive behaviour towards peers.

Another adoptive parent was telling me that she felt that it was same in September 2020, when her daughter returned to year 8 after the first lockdown i.e. there seemed to be little attention paid to her daughter’s emotional wellbeing. She was mightily relieved that her daughter’s year group bubble finally self-isolated in early December and never returned for the rest of term; her behaviour was dipping at school, which was in turn impacting on family life at home.

I'm sure there are some wonderfully creative and successful “pastoral” approaches that have been implemented in many secondary schools up and down the land. Please share them on this feed; so at least for those parents like myself that are concerned about the scant additional emotional and mental health support for our children, when we contact our schools we have something constructive and positive to share with them.

Thank you all in advance for your shared thoughts and advice.

Take care.

Simon

Donatella March 16, 2021 18:55

Amongst other things, my kids school has

https://www.jamiedenyer.com/tedx/

in to talk to the pupils. He’s a regular and has been in quite a few times.

You can google @griefpreacher.

Indie900 March 22, 2021 12:39

I think that maybe encouraging kids to reflect during this time would help. Journaling is a great way to go about this. It can so nice to sit down with a hot drink and have a moment to just think about what things have been like, what has been hard, what has been nice, etc. I think this time would naturally prompt reflection and it can be good for parents to support that through communication, as well as supporting something like journaling.

bluelizard June 3, 2021 16:49

Hi Simon,

It's a shame that their haven't been more responses to this. I think I would have found it helpful to see what other parents' experiences have been. Perhaps the lack of replies is indicative of the fact that there aren't too many stories out there that are "positive and constructive".

AS was in year 11 (GCSE year) and I feel there has been a huge amount of pressure placed on the students, to study, catch up, complete coursework etc. But more worrying has been that expectations have been poorly communicated - for example deadlines / exam timetables not made known except verbally and that information not sent to the parents (so we were not able to effectively support AS to complete the work and / or ended up having to continually email teachers about it). That sounds like a moan on my part, but AS feels calmer if there is consistency and certainty.

I don't think the behaviour policy was any more heavily enforced than before, but with all the stress AS was finding it even more difficult to comply with.

On the positive side, the teachers did put in place, after a lot of prompting, an approach to taking exams that AS found worked. He had been refusing to do exams previously. But once a proper timetable (dates and times of exams), availability of quiet space without distractions and computer were provided he managed to get them done. Simple stuff really.

I would say that the support for the exams that responded directly to AS's needs was the one positive thing that happened. Perhaps that's it - just staff being able / enabled to respond to individual students' needs.

Bluemetro June 3, 2021 19:14

I don't have particular suggestions, but see some familiarities in your post including seeing the impact of school at home. I can only say what we have done in contact with school to try to improve things. My DS struggled to do much work at home during the first lockdown, even with DH helping and messaging staff. The SENCO kept in regular contact and we communicated his concern about even leaving the house. On returning in September we looked forward to the help that would be given as a result of the trauma. He struggled to get into school and at first was allowed to arrive late rather than not coming and struggled to attend for a whole week. Then when he went in he had two 'isolation' days working with a member of staff and the student with whom he h,ad reacted to. We had quite a bit of contact at this time with school trying to communicate how anxiety affected him. I am not sure he managed a whole week in the Autumn term.

During the second lockdown with a more organised timetable he engaged a bit more when there were online lessons but without the video, but still did not manage well. On returning to school there have been quite a few problems due to anxiety, so we have had quite a lot of contact and they and us have been working with him to try to help him remember where to go for help when he has problems in school. We asked about counselling in school (recommended by CAMHS after a review) and he is now on a list for this, but the fact that there is a list suggests that there is a high demand beyond what can be provided.

DH is the main carer as I work more hours, so some weeks he is in regular contact regarding various issues. We have found that working with particular teachers has helped. For example they had decided to re-arrange groups so he is in a smaller group and he says he now enjoys this subject. We have had discussions with this member of staff which has helped her understand him. After we contacted another member of staff for a subject he was struggling with he has offered some different options. When he broke up for half term his attendance was improving but feels like a slow work in progress. He copes better when he has PE or Games and it has helped that they are now doing a Sports Club at lunchtime. In my opinion offering Sports Activities helps. The school have a Youth Worker who has arranged lunchtime sessions for quieter activities-not something that appeals to DS but probably helped other anxious students.

With DS it is quite complicated as he also has anxieties related to Autism and some Learning Difficulties. In our case support provided has been guided by our constant communication, often daily. School have offered the limited activities mentioned, but we have been disappointed that there was less understanding of trauma related behaviour.

Safia June 3, 2021 22:19

I don’t have experience of my own children in secondary school at the moment as they are well past that but I’m now a counsellor and I was shocked at the fact that this has not been addressed in schools at all. All they needed to do for most kids was to have one lesson discussing what the impact had been for them personally. Not only would it have helped the kids to do this but the schools would have learned so much. I’ve worked with kids on this in their sessions and there are often lots of positives to come out of it. When I was in college we did this as adults and it was very helpful and cathartic. I think any teacher could lead such a session. It just illustrates to me how little attention is given to children’s mental health in general or indeed emotional well-being. Simply opening a discussion seems such a logical simple thing to do and would help children normalise their experience

On another note - for my son who was a school refuser it would have been a total blessing and it annoys me the assumptions that children are necessarily losing out and suffering because they’re not at school. The implicit message is that the home environment couldn’t possibly provide what they need. What about all the kids schools are failing?

On the other hand teachers have been left to carry so much with again the assumption that this is inadequate - for example exam grades given by teachers are seen as below second best - and is a lot of extra unpaid work from the teachers - largely unappreciated. Measurements which state children are now x behind in certain subjects are arbitrary too especially for younger children who may catch up quickly. As a counsellor I was given an injection right at the beginning of the roll out as my agency is NHS funded despite not doing any face to face work at the time but teachers were left out and expected to go back into schools where they mixed with hundreds of children daily and where it was agreed infection rates would be high. No apparent appreciation of key workers there either.

Edited 04/06/21

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