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BPS marks a year since first school closures by calling on government to keep a psychological approach to education at the heart of recovery

20 March 2021

A year on from schools closing to pupils for the first time due to Covid-19, we're urging the government to seize the opportunity created by the pandemic to hit the reset button on its approach to supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing in schools.

Psychology has played a vital role during the pandemic and the BPS today highlights the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the education system to transform its psychological approach to education as we move forward to the long recovery.

The society is also advocating an overhaul of the national curriculum to adequately meet the educational and psychological needs of all children.

With just 180 Mental Health Support Teams currently up and running in schools in England, the BPS would like to see every school and college in the country being directly supported by a Mental Health Support Team, led by educational or clinical psychologists, as part of an integrated model of provision for children, young people and families.

There must be rigorous evaluation of the impact of the teams so that good practice can be shared and any poor provision or practice is improved, as the programme expands.   

Dr Dan O’Hare, co-chair of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Educational and Child Psychology, said:

“The government’s introduction of Mental Health Support Teams in schools was a welcome initiative. However, plans for its ongoing rollout and the make-up of the teams themselves fall drastically short of meeting the mental health and wellbeing needs of children and young people across the country.

Educational psychologists are concerned that the focus of the Mental Health Support Teams risks locating issues or problems within children’s minds, rather than considering the bigger picture of their wider educational needs, their environment and what else is happening in their lives that could negatively impact on their wellbeing and attainment.

It is also imperative that children’s needs are contextualised from an understanding of their unique strengths and skills.

Mental Health Support Teams must be led by educational or clinical psychologists to ensure children and young people’s needs are met. The addition of educational mental health practitioners is welcome and they will play a key role in supporting systemic change in schools.”

With educational psychologists playing a crucial role alongside teachers and educational professionals to support pupil’s wellbeing throughout the pandemic, the BPS is also highlighting the importance of learning from children’s experiences of learning during lockdown to help shape a more inclusive curriculum and environment that supports attainment for all.

O'Hare added:

“When we talk about ‘catch up’ and lost learning, we’re talking about children catching up to a national curriculum that’s not fit for the future or fit for purpose.

The impact of the pandemic means we have a really important opportunity to take a holistic look at what works for children, what doesn’t work for them, and how we can support their mental health and wellbeing."

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