Over the past week, we have witnessed anger and outrage at the catastrophic mismanagement of A, B Tech and GCSE exam results. The focus has been upon the short, medium and long-term damage done to pupils who had not expected their futures to hang upon the whimsical application of an algorithm by a Government that at every level had simply failed to do the homework.
Today, with schools for pupils of all ages due to open in a week’s time for the first time since shut-down, ‘The Daily Mail’ speaks up for those who have all too often been the blameless casualties of this pandemic. Resident ‘Mail’ writer, NHS psychiatrist Max Pemberton says:
But while I don’t doubt the distress caused… this pales into insignificance when compared with the mental health implications of the coronavirus pandemic for hundreds of thousands of younger children.
As ever, it is disadvantaged youngsters suffering most, those who haven’t had access to online lessons or home-schooling for almost six months.
On March 23, their educational and social development was effectively put on hold. For many, without the stability of school, there was no structure to their day, and by now they will have lost the habit of learning and the self discipline demanded by being part of a school community.
And of course they will have suffered fear and anxiety because of what they have heard or read about the pandemic.
Many will be living in chaotic homes without gardens or a park nearby, and have been cooped up for weeks with siblings and parents who find it hard to cope.
At best, their environment will be unstimulating; at worst, violent or have exposed them to drink and substance abuse.
Dr Gavin Morgan, an educational psychologist and member of the government’s Sage committee, has warned of the devastating impact of limited social interaction on children’s development.
‘We know how important play is for children’s development,’ he said. ‘If they can’t play with their friends, their mental health is going to suffer. . Children may have developed secure attachment with their teachers and they have been denied access to these figures.
A social worker I spoke to this week who has just resumed home visits said some of the children she sees have gone ‘feral.’
Helen Clark, Campaign Manager for the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign said:
I thoroughly endorse EVERY WORD of this and would like to thank ‘The Daily Mail’ for turning the spotlight onto the mental health of younger children and emphasising just how important play is for their mental health and wellbeing.
This is why play therapy must be an essential component of a mental health strategy for children that will stand the tests of the 21st century.
‘The Daily Mail’ gets that. Shame about the Government…