The Covid-19 pandemic led to months of uncertainty that forced schools to deal with a multitude of previously unforeseen problems, often at short notice. Pupils were forced to cope with major disruptions to their lives, with school closures and remote learning. Once they returned to school, social distancing and mask wearing was mandatory.
Children and young people have had much to cope with. In addition to the disruption to their education, countless numbers will still be desperately worried about the health of family members and sadly many will have had to cope with the loss of close relatives or friends. Long periods of confinement during lockdown also led to a rise in domestic violence, traumatising many young people who will have witnessed this or been subject to it. Schools continue to have an important role to play in supporting all these young people.
An NHS survey published in September 2021 indicated that one in six school-age pupils is likely to have a mental disorder, meaning approximately four to five pupils in every class. It is important for schools to be on the lookout for signs of deteriorating mental health among pupils.
Following the pandemic, many children have not returned to school. This can be for various reasons, including school phobia, or because of parental fear of infection. In the summer of 2022, after an analysis of government figures, the Centre for Social Justice put the number of severely absent children at 60,244.
Schools should be alert to possible problems in all areas and to be prepared to seek help from outside services where appropriate.
Where a problem is noted and appears to be escalating, early intervention strategies are used. These frequently require services to work together to support the pupils in question and their families.
There are statutory requirements for a number of health issues in schools and while most support services are available free of charge to schools in the maintained sector, this is not the case for academies and independent schools. In some cases, it is possible for these schools to buy into LA provision but where this is not possible, an independent provider must be used.
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