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Nine in 10 Teachers Fear Pandemic Has Damaged Mental Health of Pupils

Nine in 10 teachers surveyed in Northern Ireland believe the Covid-19 pandemic will damage the mental health and wellbeing of pupils, a children’s charity has said.

Pupils will begin returning to classrooms later this month for the first time since lockdown began in March.

Barnardos NI said Stormont needs to invest more in helping schools put mental health at the heart of the education system.

Garry Matthewson, principal of Holy Family Primary School in Derry, said the “full extent of the damage that has been caused” would not be known until every child was back to school and had the opportunity “to re-establish, reconnect and develop those relationships again”.

“That will be the real challenge,” he said. “We know that for some children, this pandemic has been immensely difficult and we are very keen to get them all back to school safely.”

Pupils going into years seven, 12 and 14 are to return to school on August 24th, with all others returning from August 31st.

Recommendations

The report from Barnardos NI — entitled New Term, New Challenges, New Opportunities — made a series of recommendations to Stormont ministers.

These included:

– Prioritising mental health and wellbeing in the curriculum as the system recovers from the shutdown forced by the virus;

– Increasing funding and investment;

– Delivering child-centred guidance, developed in consultation with schools, clearly and directly.

More than 90 per cent of teachers surveyed agreed that Covid-19 had affected the school’s ability to support pupils with their mental health.

More than 80 per cent believed lack of direct or face-to-face contact was the main effect, and nearly 90 per cent felt the pandemic was likely to have an impact on the mental health of pupils.

The report is based on a recent survey of 167 education professionals across Northern Ireland carried out by the children’s charity.

Changed environment

Julie Healy, head of programmes at Barnardos NI, said: “With the new term on the horizon, schools are preparing to continue their learning in a changed environment and we must act on this opportunity to put children’s mental health at the heart of education.”

She said for many children, school is their lifeline, their safe space, and going back to school will offer vital support.

“Schools cannot take on this challenge alone though, and support and guidance from our Government will be crucial,” Ms Healy said.

“Based on the findings of our survey, we’re calling for the mental health and well being of pupils to be prioritised in the recovery curriculum.

“We’d also like to see clear, child-centred guidance developed in consultation with schools, and increased investment for mental health support in schools.” – PA

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Article from https://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/covid-19-nine-in-10-teachers-fear-pandemic-has-damaged-mental-health-of-pupils-1.4327358

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