It’s not a huge reach to say that almost two years of this pandemic this has affected school communities’ wellbeing and general mental health.
In fact, it has been found that mental health and wellbeing has drawn ahead of ahead of literacy and numeracy, STEM, and family and community engagement as concerns this year. Of schools significantly impacted by COVID-19, this number shot up to 50 per cent of people surveyed.
Schools Plus’ annual survey of teachers saw over 70 per cent of respondents claim that the last 12-18 months has had a significant impact on student mental health and wellbeing, and unsurprisingly, 98 per cent of teachers answering the survey believe that poor mental health negatively impacts on their students’ ability to succeed at school.
Poor mental wellbeing is manifesting in disengagement from learning, with at-risk behaviour and disruptive behaviour
Less than half of all respondents feel well-equipped to respond to mental health issues in their students, with lack of school resources (time/staff/space) cited as the primary challenge (42 per cent).
Nearly 30 per cent of teachers claim that their biggest challenge in addressing mental health is inadequate access to support services.
Only 39 per cent of teachers felt that they were given sufficient support to help manage their own mental health and wellbeing, with another 34 per cent sitting on the fence and unable to confirm or deny this statement.
Many teachers left insightful comments anonymously. Some cite language barriers and fractured community/school relationships as key factors exacerbating the poor state of children’s mental health.
The crowded curriculum was also blamed for insufficient time and resources to help manage and support mental health in schools. A focus on improving student outcomes in literacy and numeracy is also attributed to increased stress for both students and teachers, and a lack of resources (time and funding) being made available for programs focussing on wellbeing.
Andrew Pierpoint, President at Australian Secondary Principals' Association commented: “It’s been a challenging time for teachers across Australia, but their resourcefulness and commitment to improving student outcomes in the grip of a global pandemic has been widely recognised; our research on the impact of the pandemic suggests that parents now have an increased appreciation for teachers. The emphasis on student mental health and wellbeing from the Schools Plus survey speaks to the passion teachers have to help their students succeed beyond the basic skills of numeracy and literacy.”
Schools Plus will be opening its grant application round this July and is anticipating an unprecedented level of demand from schools seeking funding for projects supporting a wide range of initiatives, but with a clear emphasis on student mental health and wellbeing.
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