Schools face 'striking' rise in parental calls for help

Many parents 'overwhelmed' in helping pupils navigate the digital world or coping with mental health

Catherine Lough

Coronavirus school closures: Remote learning can't replace a teacher in a classroom, writes Michael Tidd

Private schools have seen a big rise in the demand for from parents to help them with pupils' mental health and wellbeing, a new study has revealed.

The survey found that more than 30 per cent of independent schools said they were now spending a significant amount of time supporting parents’ needs in relation to their child’s welfare, with a further 49 per cent spending a “reasonable amount” of time.

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Nearly all the schools – 97 per cent –  had provided courses and information sessions for parents in the past four years.

The study from the Headmaster and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) – which represents the UK’s elite private schools – also found that 71 per cent had increased this kind of provision.

Chris Jeffery, chair of the HMC Wellbeing Working Group and headmaster of Bootham School in York, described the increase was “striking” and said this “reflected the complexity of the issues schools are asked to take responsibility for, as well as the time that needs to be taken to deal with them properly”. 

He added: “There is evidence that parents are increasingly valuing opportunities offered by schools to support them with the ever-more complex task of bringing up young people.”

Laura Knight, director of digital learning at Berkhamsted School in Hertfordshire, said teachers needed to work with parents who were worried about their children’s safety in a changing digital environment.

"Students are very likely to seek wellbeing support from their parents but many parents feel out of their comfort zone when faced with concerns or conflicts around digital life,” she said. 

“The ‘always on’ nature of young people’s digital life can make boundaries between the parents’ and school’s responsibility less distinct, so a partnership is essential to ensure these young people’s wellbeing does not fall between the cracks. 

“We find increasingly that parents turn to us for support and guidance when navigating complex issues around mental health, identity, social media, online behaviour and privacy, for example. 

"Parents sometimes feel overwhelmed when their children’s curiosity or naïve expertise leads them into difficult situations and we work hard to support parents to develop practical skills, offer advice and empower decision making at home.”  

Helen Pike, master of Magdalen College School in Oxford, said: “Parenting is a rewarding challenge and the trickiest pastoral questions do not present themselves between the hours of 8am and 5pm on a weekday."


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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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