Schools and colleges will be provided with new online resources to help support pupils and staff with mental health problems.
Videos, webinars and teaching materials which were designed by health and education experts aim to reassure young people who are worried about the impact of COVID-19.
Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford said: “There has never been a more important time to speak about mental health and wellbeing – especially for thousands of children, young people and teachers who are adapting to education and different ways of living and learning in these unprecedented times.
“Schools and colleges are often a safe haven for children and young people, but the challenges we face at this time mean we are all more likely to feel anxious or sad – no matter our age or circumstances.
“These new resources, created with charities and health experts, will encourage confident conversations between friends, colleagues, pupils and their teachers, and improve our understanding of how to make ourselves and others feel better,” Ms Ford added.
Schools closed on 20 March for all pupils apart from the children of key workers and vulnerable children. However, from last week, schools are set to re-open in a phased manner.
The Department for Education has announced grants worth more than £750,000 for the Diana Award, the Anti-Bullying Alliance and the Anne Frank Trust - to help hundreds of schools and colleges build relationships between pupils, boost their resilience, and continue to tackle bullying both in person and online.
Furthermore, a new £95,000 pilot project in partnership with the Education Support Partnership will focus on teachers’ and leaders’ mental health, and provide online peer-support and telephone supervision from experts to around 250 school leaders.
Next week, a new training module for teachers will be published to support them in teaching lessons on the new Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) curriculum, which will make mental health and wellbeing a compulsory part of pupils’ education in primary and secondary school.
The module aims to help subject leads and teachers deliver the new curriculum effectively when it becomes compulsory from September, as well as improving their confidence in talking and teaching about mental wellbeing in class, especially as many measures to stop the spread of coronavirus remain in place and many people continue to experience restrictions in their daily lives.
Minister for Mental Health Nadine Dories said: “The coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on the importance of looking after our mental health. It is very normal during these uncertain and unusual times to be experiencing distress or anxiety, or be feeling low. What’s important is that you get help.
“We know the impact on our children and young people has been especially tough, which is why as schools return we’re determined to equip teachers and pupils with the tools they need to look after their wellbeing.
“Mental health must be a priority as we get start to get back to normality and I hope these brilliant new measures alongside our NHS services will help start new conversations and reassure children that it’s ok not to be ok, and that support is available,” she concluded.
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