As part of Children’s Mental Health Week 2017, Place2Be (the leading national children’s mental health charity) conducted a survey of 705 pupils in their final year of primary school and responses were gathered across 20 primary schools in England, Scotland and Wales. The key areas covered by the survey included: (i) children’s worries, (ii) how well children coped with these worries and (iii) what children can do to help others who might be worrying about something. The top three concerns were family, friends and not doing well at school; with 1 in 5 children not knowing what to do when they are worried.
At a time when much needed pressure is being placed on the UK Government by campaign groups such as “More than a Score” and “Let the Kids be Kids”, calling for better assessment and fairer accountability in English primary schools, if statutory assessments (SATs) remain, albeit in the near term, how can we support the mental health of our children, allowing every child to stop worrying about their academic achievements and to enjoy their formative years?
By school age, children are able to think in a concrete and logical fashion and are beginning to understand the concept of reasoning. It is a time when children have the capacity to distinguish between the imaginary and the real and therefore it is particularly important that parents or adults caring for these children manage their own fears, worries and anxieties without sharing them with the child.
Even if we, as parents or educators, are opposed to an education imposed on children through learning by instruction, we need to ensure that school remains a positive place; a place of friendship, of inclusion and of curiosity.
- We need to listen and be patient
- stop comparing: be open to difference, change the way we think and look at others
- We can support the desire to learn
- join the child’s journey, researching together: “I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think” (Socrates)
- We need to open our minds
- consider more than the three Rs: “creativity is now as important in education as literacy” (Sir Ken Robinson)
- We need to value each other
- underline the uniqueness of every child: “each of the children we have in the morning in our school is different from all the others that we will have had before in the same classroom, or will have” (Carlina Rinaldi)
- We need to let them be
- “a lot of parents will do anything for their kids except let them be themselves” (Banksy)
Notwithstanding the pressures of our national curriculum, we can independently give our children’s voices a platform, listen to the questions they pose and begin to reconstruct the perception of teaching and learning whilst upholding our image of the child.