Something I hear a lot of from my non-teacher friends is how happy they are that ‘things are starting to get back to normal’ since the children have gone back to school. Don’t get me wrong, with five children in the house I’ve been as relieved as anyone that schools are open again but this is not normal. In addition to the necessary changes to their school routine, many children – and adults – will have been traumatised by the pandemic. As is the case with trauma, it is often when we are safe or there is a return to some sense of normal that the impact on ourselves and those around us can be measured.
As a teacher and senior leader, I’m acutely aware of that not all children have a happy and nurturing home life. I know that COVID-19 and the fallout from the pandemic will push many families to the limits and beyond. It will break families and it will break children.
Recent, and timely, changes to the new primary and secondary PSHE curriculums indicate a stronger emphasis on resilience and mental health. However, there is a danger that this may be sidelined in schools as teachers and senior leaders, rightly, move their attentions to mitigating the seemingly more immediate threat of a school closure due to an outbreak. While I miss working in schools, I don’t envy the situation teachers find themselves in, having to choose between their students’ physical wellbeing or their mental wellbeing.
A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) explored the impact of COVID-19 on children and families. Unsurprisingly, it found that during COVID-19 many families have experienced increased stress which, in turn, affects family relationships. We will all have experienced this over the last six months with the added stress of working (or not) working from home, home-schooling, loss of freedoms, worries about the unknown, health issues, finances, etc. If we are lucky, over time, we will have acquired the skills to successfully navigate our way through this uncertainty. However, we aren’t all that lucky.
There are a plethora of studies and reports which document the mental, physical and emotional impact of excessive and/or prolonged stress on ourselves and those around us. For children, it is extremely harmful and can have negative and serious impacts on a child’s health, development and behaviours. This can add to the stress both at home and at school, creating a downwards spiral that becomes ever more difficult for children to get out of.
FULLY-FUNDED INTERVENTION, PSHE SUPPORT AND RESOURCES FOR SCHOOLS
At Beacon Education Services we help schools support their pupils through regulated, Theraplay®-based sessions. Our professionals work with individuals and/or groups of pupils within schools to support pupils to overcome emotional trauma, develop their ability to co-regulate and improve behaviours through proven therapeutic techniques delivered through fun, engaging games and activities.
In response to COVID-19 and to support families and schools, through generous funding from Innovate UK and The National Lottery Community Fund we are able to offer fully-funded packages of support to 6 schools in the Birmingham area. Each package includes up to 6 x 1 hour fully-funded, COVID-19 complaint sessions for an identified group of students lead by a Theraplay® practitioner at time suitable to you. You can find more information about our work in schools with pupils and staff at beaconservices.org.uk/beacon-education-training/.
We have created a series of resources for schools to help pupils identify, understand and manage their feelings. Our ‘How are you feeling?’ posters and cards are based on Dr Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory and help adults and young people understand the relationship between their nervous system (think ‘flight or fight’ response) and their thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
Available as digital downloads or physical resources, Beacon’s Polyvagal and Theraplay®-based poster and cards have been esteemed by Dr Porges and the Theraplay® Institute, as well as countless social workers, therapists, counsellors, parents, carers and educators. Sign up to our newsletter to be one of the first to learn about how to purchase these and other resources.
Jules Ashley-Higgins is a former school leader, educator and Director of Beacon Education Services, a part of Beacon Family Services. Beacon Family Services works with families, schools and communities to provide therapy sessions which help build relationships and connections with others. They have continued to offer their services throughout Covid-19, providing valuable connections and acting as a lifeline to struggling families.
You can find out more about how Beacon Family Services help families, vulnerable or at-risk pupils, or learn more about developing your practice as a therapist through training at beaconservices.com.