A Christian organisation says schools should try to avoid excluding pupils when they return to classrooms on Monday in England.
All pupils in England can return to the school building on Monday, although many will be tested and sent home to await results initially.
Pupils in Wales and Scotland are doing a staggered return, with the youngest already in and more students back in mid March. Northern Ireland is welcoming the youngest children back on Monday as part of a phased return.
Transforming Lives for Good (TLG), which encourages churches to support vulnerable children, says when schools return teachers and local authorities should have a trauma-based response to bad behaviour, given that so many children will have gone through difficulties in the last few months.
The Christian charity argues that children are facing an unprecedented emotional health crisis that started before the pandemic and has only got worse.
In a report called 'The Hidden Crisis', TLG says: "Even for the 10 years prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, children’s wellbeing had been in steep decline. However, despite this decline, there was very little recognition of how to help children suffering from toxic stress and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). These children were expected to switch into ‘learning brain’ when at school, whereas because of their home situations they were still stuck in ‘survival brain.’"
They argue that the lack of focus on wellbeing is reflected in the gap between the £700 million committed to help children catch up academically, compared to the £8 million ‘Wellbeing for Education Return Fund’ from the Government.
Deborah Barnett is TLG's education policy lead and told Premier: "It was already the case prior to Covid-19 that a child that was not supported in their emotional wellbeing was more likely to be excluded from school, and then exclusion further contributed to a decline in their wellbeing."
She said some young people may have faced months of anxiety in unsafe homes in a "pressure cooker environment" and the return to school might lead to them reacting with bad behaviour. Barnett added that many would have witnessed financial problems, family members losing jobs or bereavement.
TLG is recommending that the Department for Education pays equal attention to learning and mental health, provides teachers with the time to offer one to one support for those who need extra support and introduces compulsory lessons on emotional wellbeing to the national curriculum.
Barnett described how people can pray: "Please, let's be praying for our young people as they make that transition back to school across the nation. Let's also be praying for local authorities to work well with schools and to incorporate a trauma responsive approach into the exclusion process - even local authorities going as far as employing a trauma-responsive therapist or coach to work within the education department. And we can also be praying for trauma-responsive approaches and guidance to be incorporated into teacher training. This can go a long way in helping the many young people that are going to be impacted and affected by the Covid pandemic."
To read the full report, click here.