Mental Health Under The Spotlight - The Power Of The Parent-School Partnership

24/05/2017 13:57

Around 1 in 10 children have a diagnosable mental health disorder according to the Young Minds charity - staggeringly, that's the equivalent of around 3 children in every classroom nationally.

There's a national campaign currently in full swing to lift the veil on mental health, and great emphasis is being placed on the importance of spotting the early signs that suggest a child might be struggling emotionally.

With children and young people spending so much time in school, there is a growing awareness among teachers and parents of the need to work together to address any issues early. But what steps do schools take to help them spot problems? And how can parents help?

Spotting the signs
I was interested to read the results of a survey of staff in independent schools that we conducted recently, which showed how much schools were doing to try and identify the signs that all might not be well with a child. The results revealed that it's not just pupils' grades that schools monitor closely - 86% of respondents said their schools make a note of changes in children's behaviour and more than half (51%) said they would note information about changes to a child's friendship group or relationships with peers.

Taking note of what can be subtle changes to a child's conduct or demeanour over time makes it easier for schools to join up the dots and see the bigger picture. They can then act quickly to provide the right support where it's needed - whether it's offering some advice on getting a friendship back on track, putting the child in touch with a councillor or taking steps to tackle bullying.

But what schools may not always be aware of is what might be going on for the child at home. That's where strong links with parents can make all the difference.

The essential home-school partnership
Schools regard their relationship with parents as crucial for building a stable network of support around a child. Keeping families informed is at the heart of this, as the survey results underline - 96% of respondents said that their schools alerted parents to behavioural changes in their child and 90% said families would be informed of issues with attendance or punctuality.

Many schools share real-time information with parents online, or via text and email, such as lateness to lessons, notifications on conduct, or drops in achievement. Issues such as these may be the first indication of a potential problem that needs addressing. When shared with parents, this information helps schools and parents work in tandem.

Help the school to better support your child
With information about what's going on with your child at school being sent straight to your phone, you might notice a pattern of lateness emerging on a particular day, alongside a notification relating to their continuing reluctance to engage in discussions in class. Knowing this early on means you can then work closely with your child's teachers and the school's pastoral staff to put the right support in place and nip problems in the bud.

Equally, there are sometimes situations happening at home that the school needs to be made aware of, such as a change in the family's circumstances or the loss of a pet. Knowing about important changes going on at home could give a child's teacher a vital clue as to what's behind a recent spate of unusual behaviour or an unexpected fall in achievement. They will then be in a much better position to provide them with the additional help they need to cope well with whatever challenges they are facing.

Keeping the lines of communication between home and school open can be one of the most effective ways for parents to ensure children and young people feel fully supported - not only in reaching their learning goals but also in overcoming some of the emotional difficulties they may experience as they journey through life.

For more information on how schools support pupils' wellbeing, please visit www.capita-independent.co.uk/working-together

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