Oxfordshire’s children facing mental health challenge due to pandemic

A focus on the mental health issues facing Oxfordshire’s school children will be the priority as they return to face-to-face learning with the end of lockdown.

There is however evidence to suggest that attendance in Oxfordshire is bucking the national trend since all children and students were able to return to school on March 8.

Oxfordshire County Council’s schools and education chief has this week laid out the challenges facing the large numbers of children who have had to learn from behind a laptop in their own homes for most of the past year.

Speaking at the councils Education Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday, April 21, Kevin Gordon said: “We think young people’s mental wellbeing is something we have got to keep focussing on. It is going to be one of our biggest challenges our biggest areas of need. It was there already but it has been amplified and exacerbated by the pandemic.”

The corporate director of children’s services added a national programme was now being rolled out to support children and young adults with mental health issues, and that teachers and other staff would be trained through this scheme.

The council has also been advertising the social services and mental health support it has available for young people through social media, and is hoping to see an uptake in the number of people asking for help.

A national snapshot survey carried out in January by the charity Young Minds found that 75 per cent of 2,438 young people had found the third lockdown the most-taxing for their mental health.

It recommended wellbeing was ‘a priority in school catch-up planning’, and dissuaded measures from the Government like extending the school day to catch up on missed work.

And during the Oxfordshire education scrutiny meeting, there was very little mention of catching up on missed work or improving grades in school.

Mr Gordon said children’s other needs had to be taken into account alongside their grades.

He added: “We have got to get through the next stages of the roadmap and we now need to be preparing for the new normal which is probably a significant amount of our children and young people who have been impacted by the pandemic whose education will have suffered despite the herculean efforts of our school staff.

“We now need to attend to addressing those future needs and they are not just about education attainment and learning, they are about the person as a whole.”

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