Once schools are able to re-open there is a greater issue that must be prioritised over the absence of education these past weeks; wellbeing. If there was ever a point at which this crucial area should be at the centre of every decision that is made within the learning environment, in order to offer the best level of transition possible, it is now. Children, young people and families will all have felt the impact of the Coronavirus in varying degrees and, as educators, we must provide for mental and emotional success, not failure. In order to prevent toxic stress from seeping into the long-term and leading to a mental health epidemic, people?s wellbeing must be addressed immediately and with sensitivity.?

As professionals, we have a duty to every student to ensure they are supported in their areas of mental and emotional need. However, this is a huge task for the teachers, who may be going through their own mental health issues themselves. It requires careful planning, compassion and self-regulation, something that burnt-out teachers have very little of. We cannot continue to ignore the signs: Even prior to the pandemic, 72% of all educational professionals described themselves as stressed (an increase for the 3rd consecutive year) with workload being the greatest work-related factor determining wellbeing.  https://bit.ly/2xFNCA5, which can lead to psychological and mental health issues.

Long overdue, teachers and their team?s wellbeing will now need to become a priority if they are to take on a heavier, mental workload from their students. They need support with their own mental health first in order to prepare them for the storm ahead. Taken from the Teacher Wellbeing Index 2019, areas that need to be addressed with a sense of urgency are:

Work load, working hours, organisational culture, student behaviour, confidence in sharing stress/ unmanageable mental health issues, mental health support, pace of change, sense of worth (from both a team level and personal level), relationships & support, work-life balance, job satisfaction, work culture & consistent policy and school management. Without specific, regional assessment and evidence-based interventions, the statistics of educators’ wellbeing will continue to rise.

Through carefully planned and strategic development, only then can schools turn this culture of stress and sick days due to work-related mental health issues (57%) around. This surely has to become a systemic movement that is born from a collaborative, open and supportive environment. Generation Be offer senior leadership and staff wellbeing training specific to your staffs’ and schools’ areas of need for optimum impact. For more detail:?https://generationbe.net/schools/

Furthermore, and looking at the execution of schools re-opening, teachers will need the training to support pupils accordingly; something that requires much more sensitivity and close nurturing in order for it to have a positive and long lasting impact.

The ACE?s (Adverse Childhood Experiences) online learning, funded by Public Health England and other organisations, is a highly valued, free resource that will really come into its own now as this can support teachers’ confidence when working with pupil?s/student?s mental health. Here is a free, 50 minute, certified introduction to ACE?s: https://www.acesonlinelearning.com/

There are 10 most common types of childhood trauma and, in comparison to before the virus, these will have increased at an exponential rate:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical & Emotional neglect
  • Mental ill health
  • Substance misuse
  • Criminality
  • Domestic violence
  • Separation

The impact of these are as shown below:

During the global pandemic and with all families in a lockdown environment, many children will have experienced one or more of these ACE?s and little social buffering. With nowhere to go, the first five identify the personal areas that children are exposed to that cause trauma and toxic stress. The latter five are the external areas that also contribute to ACE?s. Now let?s look at what happens to young people when 4 or more ACE?s are experienced:
It is important to say here that they shouldn?t be used to score but should be used to survey and inform practice and policy. Leaders may want to consider dispersing these resources to staff in preparation for the potential challenges ahead. Schools have a key role and should be reopening with a view to first and foremost, become therapy communities as this is what our generations to come will need. Generation Be offers training options to staff: an introduction to mental health (Primary/ Secondary Years), and, promoting positive mental health in the classroom. All are tailored to your pupils and your school’s community. For more information, please visit: https://generationbe.net/schools/ Schools will soon be leading the next generation in the release of toxic stress and trauma and, by approaching in an evidence-based manner, they will have more chances of success. Living through such a traumatic time in history, I’d like to finish on a positive note. This is an opportunity for many schools: time for staff and their leaders to reflect and review and build a positive, inclusive whole school culture and community based around wellbeing and psychologically informed practice. This movement will ensure that the school environment is supportive, responsive, accepting, caring and respectful of every individual’s wellbeing needs, from staff and students to its community. A place where all members enjoy working and learning, a place where all can flourish and have meaningful relationships, a place of kindness and joy, connection & empathy and a place where all can heal. We offer training for the whole school to create just this. For more information, please visit our website: https://generationbe.net/schools/