Sydney, Oct 18: With school life resuming in New South Wales and Victoria from today, the announcement of an early return came as a shock to schools and arrived as a gift for parents but what about the children themselves?
Australia’s children are in the midst of a mental health crisis, brought on by the pandemic with its lockdown, home-schooling and worried mums and dads.
Back to school is going to be the next biggest disruption they face.
Returning to school life does not miraculously fix and remove children’s current struggles.
In some cases, perhaps many cases, it will exacerbate them.
Some children and teens will have fallen behind in their studies.
Some will have lost touch with their friend groups.
Some will face the bullying or unpopularity that plagued them before lockdown, but now with the added stress of COVID-anxieties.
How will teachers measure student wellbeing?
Do they have the tools they need?
Experts locally and globally agree that it is critical that educators have the tools to measure, report and respond to the emotional state of students.
“Transitions are always a challenge – for all of us, not just the students,” Dr Lucy Hone, Adjunct Senior Fellow at the University of Canterbury, co-founder of the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing and Resilience and published academic researcher said.
“The most important thing to do in times like this is to tune into how they’re feeling and give them the empathy and support they need.
“The more educators understand about resilience and psychological wellbeing the better equipped they are to take care of themselves and their students.”
Life Skills Group, a team of experts in social, emotional, physical and wellbeing learning, is concerned that Australian school staff do not have sufficient training to recognise or assist.
“We need to arm our children and students with social skills such as self-awareness and self- management, by providing the right tools and education right now, as we re-enter back to the ‘real world’, in order to give them the support they need,” Dr Louise Metcalf, lecturer at UTS, the University of Newcastle and Macquarie University, and CEO of Gheorg, a start-up that tackles childhood anxiety using technology said.
“Both teachers and students need to be supported during this transition to create positive change.
“This cannot wait.
“It needs to start now to create positive feelings around returning to school.”
Life Skills Group was founded in Sydney in 2001 and is now an international collective of over 80 team members.
It provides primary and secondary school staff with the resources and knowledge to teach, measure and report on students’ emotional, social and physical wellbeing.
The association partnered with over 850 schools to create a comprehensive map for understanding how children are feeling by identifying and measuring the emotions of over 500,000 students.
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