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Concerns raised over child wellbeing and mental health

Ahead of primary schools partially reopening across England on Monday 1 June 2020, Dr Anastasia Giannakopoulou from the University of Bedfordshire has shared her thoughts and advice on how she believes schoolchildren will react and can adapt to the changes and restrictions put in place.

Schools have been closed to pupils (except those of key workers) since mid-March. But from next week communities will see children from three academic year groups return to the classroom – reception, year one and year six.

Whilst many parents have welcomed the re-opening of classrooms, concerns have been raised around child wellbeing and mental health. Which some fear could be affected when returning to a very different learning environment.

Dr Giannakopoulou is a lecturer in Psychology and a specialist in child development and learning. She believes that despite the fact that schools will most certainly be different due to COVID-19 safety measures, children are resilient and will adapt to the new environment. She said:

Dr Anastasia Giannakopoulou Image University of Bedfordshire

“No matter how much we crave going back to the ‘old normal’, schools will not be the same as before the lockdown. They will be a more regulated, rules-based environment, with children limited in their interactions to specific groups.

“The good news is that children generally adapt quickly to new situations and schools will still be happy, fun places for learning – even accounting for the fact they will necessarily feel different because of the pandemic.”

As every child is an individual Dr Giannakopoulou advises using age appropriate terms to explain why changes have to be made. She added that some children internalise their emotions more and may appear to be coping well in the new school environment, but could actually need more support from their parents and teachers:

“Indeed, both will need to monitor and watch out more for the mental health and wellbeing of children, listen to them and provide support where necessary.

“We shouldn’t also forget that both parents and children have had very different experiences during the lockdown but no matter their situation, we are likely to see heightened anxiety in children.

“While some children urgently need to return to school to continue their education, others have enjoyed a strong educational experience at home and might find the return to school more challenging.”