The effects of lockdown and schools closing have deprived children of the things they love the most, interaction, face to face learning and playing with their friends in groups. It was initially argued that closing schools has done more harm than good, offsetting the proven low risk of children catching Covid-19 against other factors such as mental health and family finances.
But even before the Coronavirus pandemic appeared in the UK, children’s happiness and wellbeing levels were already decreasing, yet nobody was really raising the alarm. There have been several insightful articles by The Guardian and Independent with guidance by the government on the importance of wellbeing in schools including:
Whilst it is difficult to pinpoint the full reasons for the decline of children’s wellbeing, there are many factors at play which include increased bullying, feeling unsafe at school and excessive use of social media which has led to many children, worrying more about their appearance.
The significant decline in children’s happiness has been described by The Children’s Society as a ‘national scandal’. They called on Boris Johnson to move the issue to the top of his agenda and introduce a national measurement of children’s wellbeing.
So, what is being done?
The Childrens Society is calling on the government to introduce a national measurement of wellbeing for children aged between 11 and 18 to be undertaken through schools and colleges once a year. They say it would enable experiences to be recorded and issues acted upon for future generations.
Their hard work and campaiging has paid off, as from September 2020, health education will be made compulsory in all schools in England following growing concerns about mental health problems among young people.
Children will be taught how to build mental resilience as well as how to recognize when their peers are struggling with mental health issues as part of statutory lessons, the government announced.
And so what else is being done?
There are many charities and non-government organizations who are prioritizing the wellbeing and mental health of young people, offering support to parents and teachers who may well be feeling overwhelmed by these issues.
School Breathe: 'Breathwork for a calmer classroom'
A current forward thinking organisation with compassion at it's core and making a big difference to children’s wellbeing is School Breathe. This non-government dedicated team are rolling out stress busting breathing exercises and programs for teachers and pupils to schools across the UK.
When her son entered the education system she realised that the school environment can be a melting pot for stress and anxiety for both teacher and pupil.
Knowing the benefits that a breathwork practice can bring, along with her 10 years teaching experience, she decided to create a programme that is both easily accessible and highly effective.
“It’s been proven that a little and often breathwork practice can help improve concentration, lower stress levels, boost confidence and help children to connect with the present moment, all of which are essential qualities for learning. The programme has reached over 3,000 children already and we are hoping many more will learn the importance of breathing well and how this can benefit them throughout their lives” - Aimee Hartley
Following her experience teaching breathwork in schools and seeing an increase in online learning, she created a full school year of breathwork exercises that can be experienced in the classroom. The programme now reaches over 3,000 school children in the UK and is presented by a team of certified and qualified breathworkers and health and wellbeing professionals who are all experts in their field.
YoungMinds is a registered charity who are fighting for young peoples mental health, their mission being:
‘We will make sure all young people get the best possible mental health support and have the resilience to overcome life’s challenges’
With such a huge amount of time spent in the classroom, schools provide an ideal environment for promoting good emotional wellbeing. For children experiencing problems at home, school can also provide a consistent, protective and supportive environment.
Time will tell if the government will tackle the wellbeing and mental health crisis in the classroom and with the new compulsory health education measures in September 2020, we hope to see a noticeable improvement.
In the meantime, we can look to support the hardworking charities such as organisation School Breathe and YoungMinds who are already making a difference to children’s wellbeing as they are fully aware that this issue is well overdue.
“Only where children gather is there any real chance of fun.” — Mignon McLaughlin, journalist and author