Schools across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are using this week’s Children’s Mental Health Week to remind families of the support available during the pandemic.
The importance of children and young people's mental health has never been more critical, particularly with the challenges we are all facing with the pandemic. Extra fun activities will be introduced during the week – which runs from February 1 to 7 – to ease anxiety and pressures.
Orton Wistow Primary School in Peterborough is running activities throughout the week.
The school has launched a new mental health and wellbeing news section on the school website to support parents and children. It has also launched Feel Good February - a month of uplifting and positive activities with a new theme each week. There will be fun activities to join in with and the opportunity to share how each child has participated on Twitter using the hashtag #FeelGoodFeb. The theme of the first week is 'Laughter' and there is more information on the school website.
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Head teacher Simon Eardley said: “With many children separated from friends and worried about the pandemic, mental health and wellbeing is more important than ever. Fun initiatives are now so important as we continue in lockdown. The activities are designed as entertaining additions to home learning and will hopefully bring a smile to the children's faces and inspire them.
“Children can participate whether they are learning in school or at home. We hope the activities will provide meaningful ways for our pupils and their families to stay positive and still feel connected to the school community.”
Rackham Church of England Primary school near Ely has worked hard to make mental health and well-being a cornerstone of school life. When the first lockdown began, pupils and their families were already used to having conversations about emotional health. For this lockdown period the school created a Spotify playlist to lift their spirits - Rackham Family Playlist. All the school staff were given the opportunity to share some music tracks which help them to feel more positive about life.
Rackham also has a page on its website which signposts families to places where they can seek support both from the school and from national agencies such as MIND, Anna Freud, NHS and NSPCC.
The school has also set up a pastoral ‘check-in’ facility for pupils to access if they feel isolated or lonely or would just like to talk to a member of their pastoral team.
Headteacher Bridget Harrison said: ”Keeping our pupils healthy and happy is paramount in this difficult time. Home-schooling is challenging and I know this as a headteacher and also a parent. We at Rackham have been in awe of the tremendous work parents and carers have put in to help their children access their learning, while they themselves are juggling work and other commitments at home.
“We do not underestimate the challenges this type of learning brings and the impact on everyone’s mental health and well-being. We hope the advice and support Rackham staff give helps families to be realistic in what can be achieved in their circumstances, without the worry or guilt that you are not getting it right.”
Cllr Simon Bywater, Chairman of Children and Young People Committee at Cambridgeshire County Council, said; “This is a challenging time for everybody - pupils, families and teachers and we are proud of how our schools are responding to these needs across the county.
“Children’s positive mental health is vital to their ability to learn so their happiness both at school and with home-schooling is paramount. Learning through play and enjoying the creative activities they are working on makes a whole world of difference to their mindsets and ability to deal with the unusual education environment we are now in.”
Cllr Lynne Ayres, Cabinet Member for Education at Peterborough City Council, said: “Our schools are doing a tremendous job in keeping families and pupils connected to the schools and indeed to each other. Feeling part of the school community day in day out through activities is so important for emotional well-being. Missing seeing your friends is heart-breaking for everyone and all the more difficult for young children to try and understand.
“Schools stepping up and ensuring a sense of community is happening every day in their pupils' lives will go a long way to ensure their mental health stays strong and strengthen their ability to deal with these challenging times.”