Supporting pupils’ social, emotional and mental health in the return to school

Dr Rob Long is a Chartered Psychologist who works independently offering high quality training in schools and colleges to teachers, parents and other professionals who are concerned with children and young adults' social, emotional and mental health development.

As children and young people return to school after the Covid-19 closures, it will not just be a process of ‘picking up where we left off’. Schools will need to support pupils as they face new systems and procedures put into place, in order to prevent the continuing spread of this virus. We already know that around 1 in 10 pupils already have a social, emotional and/or mental health issue (Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, NHS Digital, 2017). Unless properly understood and supported, mental health problems in children and young people will increase.

Research shows that 50% of adult mental health problems start before the age of 14 years (Mental health and wellbeing: JSNA toolkit, Public Health England, 2017). How effectively schools support children and young people when they return to school will have crucial long-term consequences for these pupils as they progress into adulthood.  

The lockdown will have been experienced differently by pupils. What is certain is that they will all have had to cope with a loss of some kind. It could be the loss of their familiar structure and routine that school provided, or the loss of being with their friends. For many, there will also be the sad loss of either a family member or friend who has died from Coronavirus.

For some pupils the period of enforced lockdown will have resulted in them facing additional adverse experiences. At home there could be mental health issues and/or alcohol/substance abuse in their carers. These will have combined with the never-ending stress created by the pandemic itself.

As a result, all children and young people will be experiencing a range of normal emotions in response to this abnormal situation, including anxiety, anger, sadness, confusion and uncertainty. How they manage these feelings will be expressed in their relationships with themselves, their peers and adults. Some pupils will cope through internalising their feelings of anxiety and sadness, and could display signs of low self-esteem; while others are likely to externalise their feelings and exhibit behavioural problems. Feelings of anger may result in defiant and challenging behaviours, while depression and anxiety may be seen through either withdrawal or a reluctance to accept new challenges. Children and young people with limited emotional self-control will understandably be more vulnerable to a variety of relationship difficulties.  

Any assessment tool that can help schools identify children and young people ‘at risk’ will be of value at this challenging time for pupils, as well as staff, as schools start to reopen. 

Special Needs Assessment Profile-Behaviour (SNAP-B) from RS Assessment from Hodder Education doesn’t pathologize or medicalise children and young people. It accepts that their difficulties are more a result of ‘What has happened to them?’, rather than ‘What is wrong with them?’

SNAP-B is much more that an assessment tool, it identifies the strengths that a pupil has, and highlights 17 areas relevant to their social, emotional and mental health. These areas include relationship difficulties for themselves – anxiety, anger sadness – as well as indicators of possible peer and adult relationship difficulties. The focus is on identifying the specific skills a learner needs to be successful in managing their feelings and behaviour, and the personalised reports and information sheets generated by SNAP-B give practical advice and coping strategies for the class teacher/support staff as well as home. All of which offers a way for schools to work collaboratively with both parents/carers and individual pupils to help support in the transition back to school.

Find out more about SNAP-B from your local sales consultant.



assessment, behaviour, mental health, sen, wellbeing

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