It will be important to prioritise the health and wellbeing of children and young people when considering their learning within a blended model. The Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) approach provides a framework for the continued consideration of children and young people’s wellbeing needs, including those which have increased, or emerged as a result of the pandemic.
It is likely that there may be a need for increased support for children and young people who are care experienced, those in need of child protection and those who have been affected by domestic abuse, trauma, loneliness, isolation and separation as well as for those living in poverty, including as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic.
It is also expected that there will be a need for increased support for mental health and wellbeing. Tools such as the resilience and vulnerability matrix will be of assistance, alongside local and national data, in identifying these needs. Local authorities will also wish to be mindful of their corporate parenting responsibilities in considering the needs and support for care experienced children and young people.
A rights-based, child-centred approach to assessment, intervention, and planning to meet needs will be essential. Children, young people, parents and carers will be important contributors in the assessment, intervention, and planning process. At all times, the holistic needs of children, young people and their parents and carers should be considered, particularly individuals’ family circumstances. During the pandemic, multiagency working has been very successful and there is an opportunity for further development.
It will be essential to draw together support from partners and third sector organisations in order to ensure appropriate support for children and young people. The Chief Officers Groups are considering these matters strategically.
In all cases, professional judgement must be the driver for determining level of support required to keep individual children and their parents and carers safe and well during this time. Health Visitors and Family Nurses exercising the function of named person on behalf of their Health Board/Health and Social care partnership will be available and responsive to children from birth to school age and their parents and carers, to promote child health and development alongside supporting and safeguarding their wellbeing.
It is paramount that school nurses in their targeted role, continue to work in partnership with education authorities to support school aged children and young people with potential increased health needs or risk.
- Getting it right for every child: understanding wellbeing leaflet
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): supplementary national violence against women guidance
- Nurture, adverse childhood experiences and trauma informed practice (Education Scotland)
- GIRFEC wellbeing resources (SHANARRI) - includes resilience and vulnerability matrix
- National child protection guidance and supplementary national child protection guidance
Mental health and wellbeing
Specific attention to the mental health of children and young people will need to be considered. On re-engagement with learning, it will be normal for staff, parents and carers, children and young people to be anxious. However, some may experience more extreme reactions, exacerbated by their experiences during the pandemic. It will therefore be important to be alert and sensitive to individual children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing needs. Relationships will be key to establishing and maintaining positive mental health and feelings of wellbeing.
It is important to recognise that teachers and other staff already have generic skills to support children and young people’s mental health. Many of these are informed by the health and wellbeing curriculum. In addition, many teachers and early years workers have specialist knowledge in areas such as nurture principles, and trauma informed strategies, which can be built upon and utilised in these circumstances.
Children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing may also be supported by educational psychologists, school nurses, and allied health partners such as counsellors and clinical psychologists. Access to specialist support will be assessed in the normal ways using the Getting it right for every child guidance and informed by the Additional Support for Learning legislation.
Counselling provided through schools should be delivered in line with the joint national agreement. This allows for the provision of counselling using technology where face to face provision cannot be made. For online provision, approaches should be provided in line with professional bodies standards and competences.
In supporting children and young people’s mental health, schools and education authorities may wish to signpost parents and carers to sources of support, for example Parent Club which provides information on supporting children and young people's mental health at home across a range of ages and stages of development.
- Education Scotland: experiences and outcomes
- Association of Scottish Principal Educational Psychologists
- Working online with children and young people
- Supporting your child's mental health during coronavirus: Parent Club
Children and young people affected by shielding
There are particular considerations for children and young people who have been shielding and for those who are living with a family member or carer who is shielding.
Coronavirus (COVID-19): physical distancing in education and childcare settings provides advice for schools and childcare settings who are providing care to children during the pandemic, including children at increased or very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.