Helping pupils stay positive during lockdown at The Perse
25 Jan 2021
Perse staff are taking an active role in helping pupils stay mentally fit and well through another tough Covid-19 lockdown.
Recent national figures from the NHS highlighted how in 2020, one in six (16%) children aged five to 16 were identified as having a mental health disorder compared to one in nine (10.8%) in 2017.
Ed Wiseman, Deputy Head (Pupil Development & Welfare), who oversees the provision of pastoral support at The Perse Upper, agreed that the Covid-19 pandemic had led to more young people struggling with their mental health.
He said: “It’s definitely a far more challenging situation for children, many of whom are cooped up at home and not able to spend social time with their friends. We found in the first lockdown that there can be a gradual decline that isn’t always noticed by those closest to them. That said, we have been really impressed by our pupils and their ability to adapt and rise to the challenges they face.
“We know that we have to be in lockdown, but everyone is waiting for the next government announcement about when schools will start back for all pupils, so the uncertainty of the situation is very difficult for them. For Year 11 and Upper Sixth, the uncertainty is especially caused by not knowing how their grades are going to be assessed, so as teachers, we are trying to manage their stress and reassure them.”
Mr Wiseman explained the door is always open for pupils to get in contact with their form tutors or a member of pastoral support staff if they have any issues or concerns they wish to talk about. However, he is aware that some pupils may not find it easy to reach out.
As such, he said members of staff are actively checking in with pupils to see how they are on a regular basis.
“We’ve identified around 150 pupils to whom we are giving significant extra support, largely with weekly one-on-one conversations,” said Mr Wiseman.
“On top of this, every tutor is scheduling regular one-on-ones with their tutees. These conversations range from discussing support with academic work to seeing how they are doing and working out how we can support them the best we can.
“We are also doing other things to try to increase their social interaction, especially for pupils in Year 7 and Year 8 for who school is probably their main form of social interaction and being at home takes them away from that. We are doing form time and other live lessons via Teams, Zoom or Schoology to get some interaction going, but we also hold conferences where pupils can see and talk to each other and that’s every bit as important as the academic side of things.
“We are also doing PSHE and emotional wellbeing lessons to address how pupils can keep fit, well and healthy in a time like this, as well as keeping safe online, so we are trying to help pupils develop a resilient approach to dealing with times of uncertainty and change.
“Keeping a consistent daily routine, getting enough sleep, taking regular exercise and enjoying activities away from the screen can all help.”
Meanwhile, a wide range of extra-curricular clubs and activities are continuing to run online during the lockdown, which Mr Wiseman considered to be another important way of keeping pupils connected with their friends and maintaining interests.
He was also pleased to see pupils taking on responsibility for helping others, highlighting a film made by the Perse Student Council offering advice to youngsters on how to cope during these difficult times.
He added: “There’s a realisation in recent years that looking after your mental health runs parallel to looking after your physical health. All of our teachers are acutely aware of the importance of pupils’ mental health and will do anything they can to help support their wellbeing.”
For useful links to further external sources of support, please click here.