We are not out of the pandemic yet, and the mental health toll that goes with it is already weighing on most of us dramatically.
Unfortunately, as things currently stand, despite the much awaited beginning of vaccination, we will all have to cope with COVID19 and with all its effects, physical and mental, for a little longer. We will have to deal with the anxiety around the threat of virus, the consequential restrictions, lockdowns and unstable businesses.
Naturally, all of this is putting our mental wellbeing to the test, and while we all look for ways to manage the crisis as individuals, schools must safeguard their pupils and teachers.
Mental health and wellbeing in primary schools
Living under the new normal has been particularly challenging for primary school students and their teachers.
For children of such a young age, to be asked to “stay at home”, limit interactions with others, avoid physical contact, and to be made aware that they may unintentionally infect loved ones with something that could turn to be fatal, means that the world they had just started to learn about is now turning upside down.
When asked to make such enormous adjustments, children are being put under a lot of pressure.
Unicef has highlighted some of the key concerns around the impact of the current pandemic on children’s mental health:
- Children living with mental health diagnoses: many young people who use mental health services are already unable to access essential mental health support. Sessions have been replaced with online or telephone support, or postponed.
- Anxiety around coronavirus: Children who already struggle with anxiety, and many who did not previously, are now feeling very anxious about coronavirus. They may worry about their health or the health of loved ones, particularly if parents are at high-risk or work in essential services.
- Loss of mental health support and protective behaviours: many of the ways in which young people manage their mental health – social support through friends and family, physical activity, being outdoors or engaging in hobbies – are now impossible.
For those who teach children, this means taking on board additional responsibilities. Primary school teachers are having to respond to the situation with greater sensitivity and tact, while keeping the educational process running and at the same time maintaining a calm and serene environment.
The importance of teachers’ wellbeing and mental health in schools
Creating and keeping a serene environment, against the backdrop of a menacing coronavirus, is a challenging task to commit to. In order for teachers to lead by example and to convey a sense of security and emotional wellbeing, they must first and foremost look after their own personal mental health and wellbeing.
The pressure is high on educators, and working under pressure, generally leads to stress.
Recent studies suggest that, during the pandemic, teachers’ mental health has suffered significantly.
A research commissioned by the charity Education Support and based on a survey run by YouGov has found that more than half of UK school teachers (52%) say their mental health declined during the first stage of the pandemic (A lack of timely government guidance was said to be the most influencing factor, but other challenges included workload, supporting pupils and maintaining a work/life balance.
So, how can technology help improve pupils’ and staff’s mental health in primary schools?
While technology cannot change or influence governmental decisions, at Bromcom we are committed to helping schools and educators use technology more efficiently and effectively, and enable Senior Management Teams to respond more quickly to the guidance that can change with so little notice, so that teachers feel better supported for their challenges.
Here are some of the steps schools, particularly primaries, can take to support Mental Health and Wellbeing in education by using technology to alleviate stress significantly.
1. Reducing workload
Bromcom offers an easy to access and easy to use technology that will massively reduce administrative tasks and extra workload. The cloud-based MIS is an intuitive solution that primary schools can use to bring together teachers, parents, senior leaders, and administrators to maintain the very best teaching and learning standards.
For primary teachers, who are particularly challenged at this time because of the vulnerable ages they teach, reducing administrative workload, will mean having more free time and more opportunities to dedicate attention to pupils, while maintaining an optimal work/life balance.
2. Getting help with assessments
Bromcom’s Primary Tracker is an assessment tool designed for primary schools. It is easy to set up, and it includes Marksheets for entering marks, and a set of tools to help analyse all primary assessment data.
The way in which the data is entered or reported is customisable, so that each school can choose to create and view assessment information in the way that best fits their needs. All reports are downloadable and can be exported and shared in meetings, in class or via email.
3. Getting help with identifying pupils’ needs for support
Teachers can use assessment tools that track attendance, behaviour and performance to identify at-risk groups of students who require targeted support. More and more schools are using their behaviour system to acknowledge and reward pupils working well from home.
Bromcom provides built-in templates and an option to “report groups” that can automatically add or remove pupils to the group according to categorisation rules based on assessment.
4. Getting help with attendance tracking
With all the lockdowns, restrictions and consequential disruptions, attendance has been unstable, and this usually diminishes mental health levels in education.
Notwithstanding guidance issued for the 2020 to 2021 year relating to not attending in circumstances related to coronavirus, there remains an expectation that attendance is monitored, and Bromcom’s MIS helps schools keep track of attendance with automated alerts and advanced dashboards. Bromcom has provided dashboards and adjusted permissible attendance marks to best support schools meet government guidance. Teachers are alerted when students are getting close to becoming a persistent absentee and can intervene.
5. Getting help with finance and accounting
Let’s face it, managing finance and accounting can be a pain for every individual and household, so why should this be any different for schools?
Bromcom Finance is a user-friendly solution and it’s unique in its ability to fully integrate within the same MIS, so schools don’t have to log into different sites and accounts when using it. It can easily be accessed through the same platform online anytime and anywhere.
6. Getting help with managing homework
With the help of Bromcom’s Cloud MIS, it is possible for teachers to send out homework, assessment and quizzes with links to resources and attached worksheets.
Using the Student Portal, students have easy access to these learning resources and general school information. They will also be able to view the teachers’ resources to the homework and complete the homework set by the teacher.
Digital versions of reports and letters are available to avoid printing, saving resources, administration time, and unnecessary handling of paper materials between the school staff, household and post office employees (which right now aids to reduce the threat of virus transmission).
7. Adopting better ways for communicating with parents
Parents are playing a central role in their children education, while the guidance from the UK government is to “stay at home” and school buildings are closed.
In order for the communication with parents to run more smoothly, every record should be stored and organised by the school through one single platform.
8. Keeping parents involved
Sharing of information between teachers and parents is fundamental for improving pupils’ mental health and wellbeing. It keeps the parent up to date with the child’s school performance and gives the teacher an understanding of the child’s background and living context.
Parents can have the possibility to intervene and be more involved, if they have access to reports, assessments, test results and feedback.
On the other end, teachers can be made aware of and prepare for changes in pupils’ living situation (for instance, children of keyworkers may now be looked after by grandparents, while the virus is still circulating) that may affect attendance or performance. They can keep up with the student’s health conditions, including physical and mental wellbeing.
Bromcom’s portal includes messaging, email and push notifications options through its online tool called MyChildAtSchool that also enables parents to view their child’s profile and performance. They can access the tool simply by connecting to the internet and via a web browser or downloading the app (available on Android or iOS).
9. Creating a stable and supportive environment
Having an efficient communication system brings safety of mind, because teachers can rely on parents’ help and vice versa. In doing so, it improves parents’ and staffs’ wellbeing while creating a more supportive environment for the pupil.
When it comes to children, the concept of safeguarding could be interpreted (particularly by non-professionals) as just protecting children from physical harm.
Recently, the Department for Education in issuing its 2020 update to Keeping children safe in education, has amended the definition of safeguarding in terms of children’s mental health with the intention of promoting wellbeing in education.
The guidelines are as follows:
- protecting children from maltreatment;
- preventing impairment of children’s mental and physical health or development;
- ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care; and
- taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes.
The Safeguarding module in Bromcom effectively manages the obligations listed, whilst streamlining and simplifying the process for teachers and school staff.
The module is embedded into the MIS to make recording incidents simple and easily accessible for all school staff. Follow-up actions and communications are recorded and linked to incidents. All information is retained in the student details page.
11. Planning in advance
Nothing reduces stress like the knowledge that you’ve planned something in advance.
Bromcom helps schools plan effectively for school improvement, lessons and accounting.
12. Setting goals
If the goals set out by the plan are well defined, then it will be easier to achieve them.
Goals need to be set out for students and teachers, and they must be clearly communicated. Ideally, these should be split into attainable steps and progress against each step should be tracked.
13. Getting help with tracking progress and performance
Tracking each step towards achieving a pre-set goal rids of the worry that records and results could be lost.
Bromcom offers all the school needs to record both summative and formative assessments, and then analyse performance.
In any industry, writing reports can be stressful for staff. Questions and insecurities around where to start from, what to include, and what not to include are common.
The Bromcom MIS includes built-in and customisable templates that can serve to inspire or guide staff when approaching assessment reporting.
15. Praising students and staff
Teachers need encouragement. In the same way we clapped for the NHS at the start of the pandemic, we should all recognise teachers’ efforts to keep schools running in these difficult times.
Like staff, pupils also benefit from occasional praise, and this can highly lift spirits and morale.
Scott Biggs of Protean has said:
“Through the parent portal/parent app, the Bromcom MIS has been able to use communications with parents to praise the work children do as well as remind them about their attendance. This has been huge with users positively feeding back on the impact it has made. Clear and open communication using the MIS system has really improved the collaboration between school and home.”
16. Remote working
Last but not least, every school should have a system that can be accessed remotely. Now more than ever, it must be possible for people to connect and work from home while school buildings and offices are closed, and public transport usage is limited.
This is why Bromcom has chosen to deliver a Cloud-based MIS product, which is agile, flexible and always accessible.
You can also try out some of the Bromcom’s features for free by registering here.