Children back at school are showing clear symptoms of distress. Yet the Government has failed to address the effects of the shut-down and teachers are having to cope alone.
A report in ‘The Sunday Times,’ (‘Lockdown’s legacy: twitchy fingers in the classroom,’ 6th September 2020) revealed a marked increase in children exhibiting compulsive behaviour and anxiety symptoms due to the chaotic lifestyles that many have experienced. New behaviours include:
- Fingers and thumbs twitching due to absence of computer gaming
- Falling asleep at desks due to lack of regular bedtimes and 24 hour screen time
- Lack of focus and inability to concentrate
- Complete exhaustion at the end of the school day.
Last week, some schools abandoned formal teaching for part of the day and took the pupils outside for a run in an attempt to quell their anxiety and manifest compulsions. Steve Chalke, founder of Oasis Community Learning (which runs 52 primary and secondary schools) said:
‘It is going to take a long time – up to a term – to get routines back into some of these children’s lives. They are way behind on ability to focus and concentrate. Their fingers are twitching for something else. Gaming and screen time is addictive.’
Sonia Livingstone, Professor of Social Psychology at the London School of Economics said that teachers had:
‘Quite a task on their hands.’
Helen Clark, Campaign Manger for the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign added:
This is clearly the tip of the iceberg. The Government has been adamant that children must return to school – and we agree with that – but they have issued a decree and then just left teachers to get on with it.
We cannot know the precise nature of the individual experiences that each child will bring to the classroom along with their school bags.
What we do know is that many will not be in the best frame of mind to immediately slot into their former routines and patterns of study.
Gavin Williamson must state what National Plan he has to ensure that teachers, pupils and their families are properly supported and that there is expert help at hand to identify the children’s mental health needs. One size will not fit all.
A detailed strategy must now be set in place to restore confidence before problems become entrenched and the classroom becomes a melting pot of disruption rather than an oasis of calm study.
A distressed, anxious child cannot work and learn and will prevent others from working and learning.
A strategy must be announced without delay.
Only today, Robert Halfon MP; Chair of the Education Select Committee has called on BBC Radio for a large increase in mental health specialists and counsellors in schools.
The ball is now firmly in the court of Gavin Williamson; Secretary of State for Education.
What exactly does he propose to do about it?’
Helen Clarke, Campaign Manager for the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign