03 February 2022
Dear Mr Halfon,
A group of organisations focused on the needs of children and young people led by British Psychological Society (BPS), the representative body for psychology and psychologists in the UK, believe that the Education Select Committee’s inquiry into catch-up ought to consider the need for prioritisation of children’s mental health and well-being as the education sector recovers from the pandemic.
We believe that the Committee should recommend that the Government take the following measures:
- Make wellbeing and mitigating additional pressures on children a priority in school catch up planning;
- Put back an additional 10 minutes of play into the school day, restoring the playtime eroded in recent years, and reversing the negative impact on children’s wellbeing and development;
- Introduce additional ring-fenced funding to enable local authorities and schools to commission the psychological support that is needed, especially for children and young people with SEND.
There is evidence which suggests that the renewed academic pressure that has come with a return to school has worsened the mental health of children and young people.
A report from YoungMinds on the impact of the pandemic on young people with mental health needs showed that in autumn 2020, 69% of this group described their mental health as poor after returning to school, which was an increase from 58% before schools reopened.
Children need to be mentally healthy in order to make the most of school-time and therefore wellbeing must be a top priority for the catch-up programme.
The prioritisation of play offers significant benefits to children’s well-being and is essential for their social development- something that many children have had significantly reduced access to during periods of school closures. As well as having psychological value for children and young people, play also has the support of the vast majority of parents.
A survey conducted by YouGov, commissioned by the BPS, has revealed that 96% of parents said playtime in the school day was very important, and 79% said play was more important than or equally as important as academic catch-up for their children post-pandemic.
The Government should use the education recovery strategy as an opportunity not to return to the pre-pandemic norm and restore the playtime that children so desperately need and that parent’s value.
In addition, we are particularly alive to the disproportionately negative impact of the pandemic on children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
We are aware that the 2021 report by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) highlighted that the cumulative effects of disruption caused by the pandemic has exacerbated existing weaknesses in the SEND system, such as significant inconsistencies in how SEND is identified and a lack of joined-up commissioning and joint working across education, health and care.
Local authorities and schools need access to psychologists to ensure that children with SEND can receive the expert support they need. This can only be achieved throughout the UK with adequate funding from the national Government.
We hope that the Education Select Committee uses their inquiry as an opportunity to urgently call attention to the evidence which demonstrates the need to focus on mental health and well-being in education recovery.
If you or the Committee would like to speak to any of our experts please get in touch.