On 26 October 2021 we invited Maree Dellaportas, a leading clinical psychologist to join us for a discussion about how best to support students moving from remote learning to face-to-face teaching on school premises.
We’re aware that the mental health and wellbeing of students is a focus of the Victorian Government at this time of transition. With the introduction of rapid antigen testing for students, additional stresses may be introduced to their lives.
The Commission for Children and Young People took a snapshot of what young people and children said about their experiences of Victoria’s lockdowns. It included their reflections on mental health and wellbeing, education, the impacts of remote learning, safety and security at home and the future.
Some common issues faced by students in returning to face-to-face learning include:
- Students are anxious about recommencing friendships.
- Older students are worried about their future job prospects and impact on their schooling.
- Younger students may experience separation anxiety when leaving the family home.
- Students who thrived during remote learning may not relish returning to school.
Duty of Care and Mental Health
The school owes a non-delegable duty of care to their students to take reasonable measures in the circumstances to protect students from risks of harm that are reasonably foreseeable. The duty extends beyond the scheduled school day. Schools also owe a similar duty of care to their teaching staff.
Ways to assist schools in meeting their duty of care obligations include:
- conducting surveys to see determine the needs of students and staff – this also helps meet the empowerment requirements of Ministerial Order 870;
- scheduling activities to help students bond with each other;
- having ‘screen free’ time to allow students to be in the moment;
- being flexible during classes and taking more breaks if required;
- being creative with tasks as a way to understand the issues students are facing;
- utilising rapid antigen testing to ensure a safe school environment;
- ensuring staff concerns are catered for.
Key Takeaways from Maree Dellaportas
“As a Clinical Psychologist supporting children and adolescents throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I have had many conversations with teachers around supporting their student’s mental health. Prior to the pandemic approximately 1 in 5 youth struggled with a mental health disorder. We know this incidence has risen over the past 19 months as students have had to pivot and adapt to the ever changing new normal.
My message to educators and to students is to be kind to yourselves and allow time for adjustment to in-person learning. Students may have issues reconnecting to peers and managing classroom and learning expectations. When students feel supported by teachers, they are more likely to feel like the classroom is safe and will engage in learning. Teachers can help by providing a space for calm and a space for being perfectly imperfect.”
Contact Dr Maree Dellaportas via email at email@example.com
How we can help
Moores recommend schools consider implementing the two key documents to equip staff to manage and promote the well-being of students returning to campus:
- Safety management plan.
- Return to school plan.
Please contact us for further assistance.