Supporting pupils' wellbeing throughout the pandemic and recovery
St. Nicholas Catholic High School in Northwich is one of 21 local schools that contributed to a new report, It’s Time To Act: countering the impact of Covid-19 on pupils and schools. Mrs Pardoe, Associate Assistant Headteacher at the school, explains how they supported pupils’ wellbeing over the last year.
Teachers have had a long-established history of supporting students spiritual, social and emotional needs. We can all bring to mind a student where we have supported students and ensured their basic needs were met. From guaranteeing they are properly dressed in the morning, being a listening ear when they have fallen out with friends to offering support when they experience trauma. But what does a teacher do when a global pandemic hits, the world comes to a stop and the busy school buildings turn into empty corridors with learning being facilitated through a 16” screen? How do students respond when the adult who they see on a daily basis is now only available through a screen and they are thrown into extended family time and periods of isolation? How did schools adapt and respond to the changes and ensure that students wellbeing was still a priority?
Whilst the full impact of Covid-19 is still unknown, initial studies show that parental and family stressors, impact of school closure and exacerbated vulnerabilities for children and young people did have a significant impact on wellbeing. As a school we realised we needed to respond immediately to the increased vulnerabilities of our young people whilst also looking to the future and looking at how we help our students recover their wellbeing on their return to school.
In addition to increased 1-2-1 support for our most vulnerable students, we invited key cohorts of students into school whilst also identifying students who may be struggling at home and invited them into school to maintain an element of routine and structure to their lives.
As well as our remote lessons, we maintained our form time each morning where form tutors could offer support and guidance to students to support their wellbeing. We provided students with resources such wellbeing booklets, carried out student voice, recorded videos and assemblies and other resources to support wellbeing at home.
One of biggest wellbeing initiatives, was giving students a chance to make their wellbeing a priority for a day. We cancelled our normal lessons and instead ran a ‘Make Your Mark-Mission Day’ students were invited to take part in four missions throughout the day and with over 100 activities to choose from allowed them to do things that made them happy, express themselves, practice self-care and celebrate the diversity in our school community. The response to this day was incredible, we saw examples of original art, droned-filmed bike rides, baking, dancing and much more!
On our return to school we spent time familiarising students to all the new changes and making sure they were comfortable with the additional Covid-19 measures like testing and face masks, in form time we did dedicated sessions on wellbeing and in July, at our next mission day, we will be including a dedicated session on wellbeing which focuses on recovery after the pandemic.
One of my favourite quotes from Brene Brown, an academic from America, in her work in professional development for teachers seminar ‘Daring Classrooms’, is: ‘Teachers are the guardians of spaces that allow students to breathe and be curious and explore the world and be who they are without suffocation, students deserve one place where they can rumble with vulnerability and their hearts can exhale.’
Whether virtual or physical, teachers across the country have done an amazing job creating those spaces for our students to support their wellbeing.