Anxiety having 'big impact' on primary school age children, meeting hears

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

Young schoolchildren in the borough are struggling with mental health ‘without a doubt’ a meeting has heard – a legacy effect of COVID-19.

At a meeting of the Schools Improvement Forum on Monday (May 13), councillors heard thar there remain some academic and well-being struggles hanging over from the worst of the pandemic.

Areas of concern for Reception age students include issues with socialisation, speech and language, communication, gross motor skills and fine motor skills.

For Key Stage 2 (KS2)-age children (about 10 or 11 years old), writing and ‘writing stamina’ are not as strong as they should be.

Sarah Cottle, co-head with the Nursery Federation in Windsor and Maidenhead, talked about the impact on current two-year-olds – children who were born during the pandemic.

The children have not been exposed to as much same-age socialisation as babies and toddlers born in non-COVID times.

“Sharing and turn-taking [skills] are not quite age-appropriate,” she said. “Some of them have been quite isolated and parents have been quite anxious.”

Physical development, too, has been affected, particularly those living in flats without access to outdoor space.

Helen Daniels, head of Cookham Rise Primary, said it is possible that, while children were supported to learn reading during COVID, the same level of support may not have been available for writing skills.

She added that there has also been a ‘big impact’ of anxiety and eating disorders are ‘really increasing’.

There are concerns around accessing ‘increasingly busy’ services such as the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), speech and language and occupational therapies.

“For some children, a great level of support is needed. Primaries [need to be] aware that mental health issues start often at a very young age,” she said.

Helen Huntley, of the School Improvement Team said there is a group of young people who ‘are finding it difficult to leave their home.’

This is known as Emotionally Related School Avoidance – ERSA – and an ERSA toolkit created by educational psychologists has been put in place to help them these pupils back into school.

Councillor David Coppinger (Con, Bray) said: “Like most of the population, when we have considered COVID, we have really thought about the impact on older children – the sitting of exams, how they’re getting on.

“I think most of us have totally forgotten the mental health aspect of the young, especially living possibly on floor five of a block of flats, not able to get into a garden.”

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