From teachers to parents, pupil wellbeing is high on everybody’s agenda. And for good reason. The impact of the pandemic and lockdowns is still felt in schools. In 2020, NHS digital findings revealed one in six pupils between the ages of five and 16 was likely to have a mental health problem.
In the last three years, the likelihood of young people having mental health problems has increased by 50%. As a result, one in five children in a classroom of 30 is likely to have a mental health problem today.
A survey published in February 2022 by Place2Be and the National Association of Head Teachers found that pupil mental health problems had increased since the start of the academic year.
- low self-esteem (86%)
- depression (76%)
- constant feelings of anger (68%).
Where a pupil has certain types of special educational needs (SEN) there is an increased likelihood of mental health problems. Students with autism or learning difficulties, for example, are more likely to have conditions such as anxiety.
Post-pandemic mental health
A BMJ report highlights that the pandemic has disproportionately harmed children’s mental health. There is also evidence that, over the course of the pandemic, disadvantaged pupils had poorer mental health and wellbeing.
The wider effects of the pandemic and nationwide lockdowns on students have been greater than COVID-19. Despite being much less at risk of hospital admission from the virus, students have not escaped unscathed, and teachers and parents report the heavy toll on their mental health.
Mental health and low academic attainment
Many students achieve low grades because of their mental health challenges. These can include difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, and a lack of optimism or confidence. This highlights the importance of prevention, early intervention, and school-based support for pupils suffering from mental health difficulties.
A 2019 report showed links between poor mental health and educational outcomes. The report by EBPU published in the journal European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, aimed to investigate the association between educational attainment, absence from school, and mental health difficulties. The charity found that seven in ten (68 per cent) students reported being absent from school due to their mental health.
Student engagement in school life
School staff also highlighted the wider impact of many aspects of mental health on school life.
In the Place2Be and NAHT 2022 report a majority said it has affected:
- pupils’ behaviour (87%)
- pupils’ progress (86%)
- staff workload and capacity (91%)
- staff wellbeing (89%)
And 91 per cent of teachers believe mental health affects pupils’ ability to engage in learning.
The report also demonstrates that the vast majority of staff working in UK schools (95%) have seen increased levels of pupil anxiety since the start of the school year.
Children with social anxiety and/or confidence issues experience intense feelings of anxiety about many different triggers, including speaking in front of others, reading out loud, being evaluated by others, offending others, feeling embarrassment, and communicating with unfamiliar individuals.
Pupils can have inhibitions in the classroom and be afraid to speak in front of peers for fear of bullying if they get answers wrong. Social anxiety often stops pupils from joining and enjoying classroom discussions and friendship groups.
Other students may suffer from shyness. This can be linked to low self-esteem. It may also be one of the causes of social anxiety that prevents them from engaging in school life.
Looking after pupils’ mental health forms a vital part of helping them succeed, especially after a time when their education has seen an unprecedented level of disruption.
The benefits of one-to-one tutoring on mental health
After time away from the classroom and with anxiety surrounding exams, a tutor can provide much-needed support. Due to lockdowns, many students have lost learning and are falling behind in other areas. Some pupils are struggling to cope two years later and suffer from stress and anxiety as a result.
With one-on-one school tuition, tutors can focus their attention on a pupil and their individual learning and needs. This is a huge advantage compared to normal classes of thirty students. Tutoring can often help a student suffering from anxiety or low self-esteem. A pupil is more likely to ask and answer questions on a one-to-one basis.
Tutors often are able to build up both trust and rapport with a student who might be suffering from low self-esteem, anxiety, and/or shyness. And, tutors are able to listen to the individual and share insights and experiences. Often, they will realise that adults, including the tutor, struggled with their education.
Building confidence is key. Students are more likely to be successful if they feel confident in their knowledge and ability. One-on-one tutoring can help a student prepare and reduce some of the pressure they may feel. Helping pupils feel confident with different subjects goes a long way toward easing anxiety and stress.
Dan, a tutor for Fleet Education Services, talks about the improvements he sees in the students being tutored. He explains: “Tutoring helps students gain confidence by helping them achieve in difficult areas; often, through more dedicated time and coaching, learners overcome barriers. I see the student really wanting to learn, and they are pleased with their progress.”
Positive reinforcement recognises and rewards students for their accomplishments or new skills. Positive reinforcement techniques, when done well and with the right balance, can be transformational for student behaviours and outcomes. It is something that can take place in one-on-one tutoring and be effective.
“In these situations, tutoring can complement teaching. It gives students more confidence and helps them feel that their educational progress is tangible and valuable, both to themselves and to others,” says Dan.
School leaders and staff remain on the frontlines, coping with all the additional needs of pupils. There has never been a more important time to ensure that schools, and therefore pupils, receive the support they deserve. Using specialist tutors can ease some of the burden on teachers and schools.
Importance of support services for mental health issues
For pupils who are suffering from mental health issues, and for parents or teachers who suspect this, it is important to also access support services. Tutoring can help support a student academically, but counselling or other specialist support may also be required.
About Fleet Education Services for tutoring
Fleet Education Services is the UK’s largest specialist tuition provider. As a DfE-accredited National Tutoring Programme (NTP) Tuition Partner, we will tailor the right solution to your school’s needs in small groups or one-to-one sessions. We help over a third of local authorities and 700 schools.
Find out how you can help your students: https://fleeteducationservices.com/contact-us/