When we recollect the consequences of lockdown, the main points that come to mind are NHS backlog, people left unemployed and the inflationary crisis facing our economy.
However, mental health is often overlooked, especially regarding school aged children.
Many school-aged children developed mental health illnesses due to social isolation over the coronavirus period. Yet this, of course, would contribute to the CAMHS backlog like the many thousand other cases facing children across the UK. Mental health related issues have caused increased pressure on the NHS and one of the contributing factors is the gradual decline in happiness for school pupils.
An ONS survey from March 2022 stated that on a scale of 10, pupils in Y7 and KS3 have an average happiness of 8/10 whereas pupils in Y12 & 13 have an average happiness of 6/10. Clearly evidencing a downward trend as exams pressure and workload increases through school.
Improving partnerships between early years and primary pupils and secondary pupils is key to helping this. This would involve establishing partnerships between secondary schools and local primary/nurseries and engaging in activities for a bit every week (hour for KS3 pupils per week?). This activity time would be treated like sports are – it would receive a designated slot in the curriculum and schools would be obligated to cover it.
My primary school had a ‘reading buddy’ system. This would involve half-hourly meets between year 5 and year 2 pupils to help establish ‘friends’ in older years and help in the transition between infant and junior school. To improve pupil’s communication and life skills following coronavirus, we could implement a similar system however on a larger scale that focusses on fixing the gaping knowledge caused by lockdowns.
It is known that younger children often idolise older teens especially when engaging with them. The partnership programme aims to improve people skills early which would develop well for later life in education and the workplace and try to reduce stress. This would enable these children to engage in activities such as arts, sports and reading in a more personal 1-1 setting with someone who they can relate to more. In turn, the younger pupil would improve confidence when meeting new people and improve vital skills with a more direct approach.
Secondary pupils would benefit from this stress-free ‘break’ during their week. As well, this would allow them to actively engage in volunteering activities which can contribute to DofE and CVs alike. They would benefit from the sibling-like engagement from younger pupils and the confidence in teaching and improving the early development of an early year pupil. This break would increase happiness and break up the week and give them a responsibility outside of lessons.
The national curriculum is so focussed on standardised assessments and Ofsted ratings that it forgets what matters most, the welfare of those it educates. So, incorporating enrichment and social opportunity into the curriculum will in turn improve the enjoyment of those in school and act as a break to the pressure of proper subjects.