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Mental health in children and young people: an awarding organisation’s perspective

Janet King Janet King Sector Manager for Education and Childcare

Our Education and Childcare Sector Manager, Janet King, recently presented at the Children and Young People's Mental Health Conference. Janet reflected on the current challenges faced by education practitioners, children and young people, whilst contextualising these issues with current thinking and evidence practice. Here, we’ve summarised the key points from the presentation in Janet’s own words:   

Every single day, education and childcare professionals aim to make a positive impact. Gestures can be as simple as a nod to an anxious parent, a smile, a shared joke, or as impactful as valuing, motivating, inspiring, and forming connections with young learners.   

We would like to see Industry Champions making connections with our students, strong leadership and management, coaching and supervision for staff. As Angela Hodgkins, Senior Lecturer at the Department for Children and Families at the University of Worcester, stated: ‘I believe that there is a need for more awareness of the emotional impact of early years work in general, but particularly at this very stressful and uncertain time. Practitioners need opportunities to talk through their feelings with colleagues, both informally and through supportive supervision with managers. This is so important in preventing emotional overload and burnout within the profession.’ 

There are priority short-term needs for the sector and long-term investments for a highly qualified and trained professional sector which must be addressed to ensure no child gets life behind.” 

The decline in children and young people’s mental health  

“Since Covid-19, students have seen a decline in their confidence, not only academically but socially and emotionally. Centres have seen an increase in calls from worried parents and guardians, with many saying their child had no motivation, often suggesting they had no desire to get out of bed until the afternoon and then staying up all night on social media. From a provider’s perspective, we must be mindful of the way our students are feeling as they start their training with us. 

It’s important not to forget the words of Anne Longfield former Children’s Commissioner who talked of building back better: ‘Building back better’ must mean rethinking our priorities and the way we care for children. We must be honest about the scale of the challenge and face the tough questions about the gaps that we know exist.’ 

With this, we must question how many children are in families that are struggling to support them; how many are starting school so far behind they’ll never catch up; how many children with mental health needs or special education needs aren’t getting the help they should be? These questions speak to the basic rights of a good childhood.” 

State of Child Poverty 2021 report 

The State of Child Poverty 2021 report, conducted by Buttle UK, tells the story of the ongoing impact of Covid-19 as witnessed by frontline services that support an estimated 36,000 vulnerable children and young people. 

The report warns that the pandemic has resulted in a generation of children in trauma and experiencing mental health issues. These issues need to be addressed before the Government catch-up education strategies will work. It found that compared with results from the same survey a year ago, 10% more support workers (61%) reported mental health problems as a key difficulty that the children they work with are facing. Respondents agreed  that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) have been made worse by Covid-19, with 68% reporting that family mental illness has been impacted the most.  

Within the report, the charity puts forward a number of recommendations to policy makers, including how vital it is that we listen to frontline professionals and prioritise mental health support. Joseph Howes, Chief Executive of Buttle UK, said: ‘It’s clear that the pandemic has exacerbated some of the very challenging experiences that many children on low incomes were already facing and with it, the level of trauma they are dealing with. This crisis in mental health problems is one of the key drivers in children from disadvantaged backgrounds falling further behind in their education. If we are to close the growing gap with their more affluent peers then we must listen to these frontline professionals and prioritise mental health support, otherwise initiatives like the National Tutoring Programme are not going to benefit those that need it most.’” 

We offer a range of qualifications in mental health, including Understanding Mental Health in the Early Years and Awareness of Mental Health Problems. To find out more information on the qualifications we offer, visit qualhub.co.uk

We must be honest about the scale of the challenge and face the tough questions about the gaps that we know exist.

Janet King, Sector Manager for Education and Childcare