Our aim at Making Me is to pro-actively support children’s mental and emotional wellbeing so that they can thrive, taking on the challenges of life as they grow and mature into young adults.
The need for this proactive approach has never been greater. Research shows that:
- more and more children are struggling with their mental and emotional health – irrespective of the COVID-19 pandemic;
- having a degree of emotional intelligence significantly helps children to stay mentally and emotionally well, and improves academic achievement;
- schools are being increasingly required to fill the gap.
Let’s look at the evidence in more detail.
- Children and young people’s mental and emotional health
The statistics around children and young people’s mental health don’t make comfortable reading.
Much analysis of this is done by the Children’s Society who have published their ‘Good Childhood Report’ for the past 10 years. This year, the stand-out statistics showed a continued decrease in happiness among children and young people (Britain’s children are the saddest in Europe) together with increased anxiety around academic failure and exam stress.
In addition, the NHS in their 2017 report on children and young people’s mental health reported that 1 in 8 children and young people aged between 5 and 19 had some form of mental disorder, with anxiety and depression scoring highest at 1 in 12 (particularly amongst girls).
- The impact of coronavirus
Both Young Minds and the NSPCC have carried out comprehensive work to better understand the impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on children and young people’s mental health.
During the pandemic, children were reporting the following as areas of concern,
- struggling with increased feelings of depression and anxiety
- having panic attacks more frequently
- having nightmares or finding it difficult to fall asleep
- feeling lonely or isolated
Whilst some children found the time away from school and toxic friendships helpful, on returning to school in September, 69% of children surveyed by Young Minds reported a negative impact on their mental health as a result of the coronavirus and the lockdown period. All this at a time when children’s mental health services are stretched to breaking.
- The impact of emotional intelligence on academic achievement
Recent evidence has also shown that the ability to understand and manage emotion can have a significant impact on a child’s capacity to learn in school. Being able to regulate emotions, such as anxiety over exams or boredom in class, means that these ‘negative’ emotions do not clutter the brain and hinder learning. In addition, a degree of emotional intelligence also enables pupils to remain connected – with teachers, friends and the wider community so that they feel less alone and isolated with their feelings.
In their revision of their criteria in May 2019, Ofsted encouraged schools to focus their efforts away from the purely academic and instead to develop a curriculum that “provides for learners’ broader development, enabling them to develop and discover their interests and talents” and “helps them know how to keep physically and mentally healthy”.
Gone is the cursory nod to wellbeing in schools and in its place is a core focus on the mental and emotional wellbeing of pupils.
What is clear is that the responsibility for responding to this change of focus within Ofsted falls squarely at the feet of teachers and school staff generally.
 Mental and emotional wellbeing can include many things and may well have a different meaning for each one of us. Broadly speaking, however, it involves the ability to have a balanced life, which includes engaging in activities that completely absorb us and make us happy (including exercise and hobbies), maintaining meaningful and supportive relationships and having good sleep habits.