‘Schools not ready for pupils’ emotional needs’

Only 38 per cent of teachers say pupil support will be up to the task when schools reopen – but most concerned about lockdown impact

Emma Seith

'Schools not ready for pupils' emotional needs'

Only 40 per cent of teachers feel prepared to meet students’ emotional and mental health needs when they return to the classroom after lockdown, according to new research.

Even fewer (38 per cent) believe their school’s pastoral support is up to the task.

Yet almost three-quarters of teachers (72 per cent) surveyed by University of Glasgow academics believe “many” of their students will have had chaotic home lives during the lockdown brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, and 62 per cent agree they are worried their pupils “may be experiencing emotional neglect at home”.


Related: Fears over impact on pupil mental health

Background: 'Part-time school impact will be greater than lockdown'

News: ‘Cancel next year’s exams,’ says teaching union


Overall, 40 per cent of the 700-plus teachers surveyed said they expected “many more” of their pupils to be labelled at risk or have interventions from social services by the end of the lockdown, but that figure rose to 68 per cent for teachers working with more deprived populations.

Staff in schools serving the most deprived areas were also far more likely to say they were worried their pupils had experienced physical abuse during lockdown and that they believed “many more” would be malnourished when they returned to school.

The findings come in a survey of 704 UK teachers – 80 per cent of whom were based in Scotland.

The survey report – entitled Teachers’ Responses and Expectations in the Covid-19 School Shutdown Period in the UK – was submitted to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee, which meets tomorrow.

The survey also found that a large majority of teachers (79 per cent) were concerned that there would not be enough resources to address pupils’ wellbeing when schools returned, and over 90 per cent believed that children would require more pastoral support than before.

The researchers called for inspection and curriculum body Education Scotland to work with mental health charities and researchers “to develop, resource, implement and evaluate whole-school interventions aimed at improving mental health and wellbeing as the number one priority upon reopening schools”.

They also called on them to highlight leading practice in whole-school pastoral support, and “to ensure there are adequate resources for all schools to rebalance their focus toward pastoral care”.

The Scottish government has accepted the need to prioritise pupils' emotional wellbeing when schools reopen.

In its framework for reopening schools, published last month, it said: “There should be a strong focus on pupil health and wellbeing, including mental health and resilience, alongside both literacy and numeracy during this period.”

However, secondary teachers have made it clear their ability to prioritise pupils’ mental health will very much depend on the adjustments made to qualifications to take account of the fact that pupils have been out of school since 20 March.

The EIS teaching union has called for the exams to be cancelled next year – as has the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) – and for national qualifications to be based on a combination of teacher judgement and continuous assessment.

However, information on what the qualifications will look like in the coming school year has yet to be published by exam body, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for TES Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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