The majority of prep school staff are worried about pupils’ social skills and screen time as they return to the classroom after Covid disruption, new research by the Independent Association of Prep Schools and Tooled Up Education finds.
Teachers said that while they believed it was essential to work with parents to overcome children’s social difficulties, nearly four out of ten were worried that parents’ would not be willing to work with them.
Post-lockdowns and home-schooling, more than three quarters (76 per cent) of 1,190 IAPS prep school staff surveyed worried about pupils’ screen time. More than two thirds (67 per cent) agreed that the lack of in-person interactions with peers had been detrimental to pupils’ social skills and amongst younger children, their emotional development.
The survey also finds that more than two thirds (70 per cent) of school staff worry about the mental health of pupils as they return to the classroom. While staff are confident discussing these issues with their colleagues and heads, almost half (49 per cent) lack confidence discussing them with parents.
Around two thirds (64 per cent) of school staff say that they would like additional training to support pupils with mental health and wellbeing concerns. A total of 38 per cent, however, had concerns about the willingness of parents to work with them to overcome these new challenges.
A press release from IAPS sketches out some of the initiatives schools are organising to address the problem, including workshops for parents on how to help children dealing with anxiety and depression and hiring new counsellors to deal with increased pupil anxiety.
The research comes ahead of the IAPS annual conference, starting today, where chief executive Chris King will speak about pupil and staff emotional wellbeing and the need to increase training for staff in this area.
Christopher King, chief executive of IAPS, said: “Lockdown took its toll on everyone, but for younger children, it was a crucial stage in life for the development of their social skills and learning about their emotions.
“Schools and parents must rebalance their relationship, allowing teachers to effectively take back control of teaching, and parents and teachers to work together to address new challenges.
“Parents need to support schools with the development of skills and management of behaviours that cross the school and home boundary.
“We must break down the barriers and concerns expressed by teachers and school staff, so that they can talk openly with parents to address and help manage these new issues together.
“At the same time, schools need to step up and support their teachers and staff, whether that be with additional training or dedicated teams to step in when worries or concerns are raised.”
Dr Kathy Weston, chief executive of Tooled Up Education, added: “Never before has the quality of the home-school partnership mattered more, and staff need to feel as confident as possible when engaging with, and supporting, parents, and carers.
“The experience of the pandemic is an opportunity for all schools to recalibrate the home-school partnership. It is a chance to redefine the respective roles of parents and teachers and ensure they are aligned in helping to protect each child’s mental health and emotional resilience.
“Our wider research shows that when it comes to mental health, early intervention is key. Staff and parents need to be equipped to recognise early ‘red flags’ and address them using the most up-to date and evidence-based approaches. This is particularly important with younger children where support early on can reduce the risk of more complex mental health needs as a teenager.”