26th Feb, 2021

Stop 'catastrophising' over the pandemic's impact on pupils' mental health says Stratford headteacher

‘CATASTROPHISING’ over the pandemic’s impact on education and pupils’ mental health is unhelpful says a Stratford headteacher.

Stratford School headteacher Neil Wallace has written a letter to parents about ‘misleading and unhelpful media speculation’ around education.

Schools across the UK have been open and closed intermittently since the first national lockdown in March. The disruption has caused end-of-year exam cancellations, with this year’s round of tests also set be scrapped – despite schools looking set to reopen on March 8. The gap in the more pivotal schooling years has led to affected pupils being dubbed the ‘covid generation’.

Ministers are currently debating over plans to extend the school day, and a shorter summer holiday, although psychologists and education experts argue the extra pressure could impact pupils’ wellbeing.

Mr Wallace described the daily ‘bombardment’ of such crisis talk as ‘despairing’.

He wrote: “It can be despairing being bombarded almost daily with talk of the youth mental health crisis, a covid generation afflicted by lost learning, rumblings about extending school days and term continuing into the summer holiday, and the ongoing debate about when students should return to school.

“The catastrophising about the state of education and the allegedly detrimental impact all of this is having on young people needs putting into perspective.”

The headteacher has urged parents to look to the benefits and skills commanded by the situation.

He continued: “The additional skills students have acquired during this period are often overlooked, including using technology in different ways, learning greater self-reliance and resilience. It would be helpful to stop medicalising feeling lonely, bored, confused, anxious, worried and sad. These are natural appropriate responses to an incredibly stressful situation.These are feelings people will experience throughout their lives and do not necessarily mean that youngsters have a mental illness.

“Our values statement as a school explains that ‘We work better and are more productive when we feel good about ourselves and trust each other’. If only all of the politicians and media would adopt the same message. What is required is a fair, focused and fearless assessment of the big picture – one that acknowledges the wider purposes of education. The disadvantaged gap is not simply a problem for schools, it is rooted in the endemic socio-economic inequalities that exist.”

He added government should not fixate on exams and ‘cramming knowledge’ but on a broader and fairer curriculum to meet the needs of all learners.

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