How are we really supporting the children of today?

For parents and children alike the end of the school term is fraught with angst in many households and why, because it’s the time of the annual school report. School reports are very different these days to the ones we had where the subject teachers wrote just a few lines with an overall comment from the form teacher and head. Today there are pages and pages of comments with predicted grades, comparisons for age groups and so on. And it’s not just in senior school the reports are now given to all children over a certain age. But to what avail?

Time to take time before it impacts on your well being

Not every child will achieve great results, how will we support those who don’t?

What do school reports and predicted grades really do re support and help for the children? And does anyone actually sit down with the children and talk to them about their report and what it means? We often moan about appraisal processes in the workplace but at least someone talks you through the appraisal and will also work with you on a plan to help with the areas that may need improvement. What happens with school children?

There is an argument that the parents are the ones who should come up with an action plan for support but it has to remembered that many don’t know how to approach this or have the capability nor the ability to do so. So what support might there be to help them?

Personally I no longer have my school reports from senior school, they all suggested that I was not going to be successful in life aka a career, did that motivate me – not at all, did I prove them wrong – hell yes.

Last year I attended my nephew’s speech day and was wowed by the pupils, what they had achieved and in particular the year 12s vision for the future; this inspired my blog about being the change in the world that you want to see.

Having said that I do know that the enormous pressure of grades, university places yet alone parental pressure was a significant to challenge to a number of the pupils in their final year and hope this hasn’t impacted too much on their grades.

The latest government proposes will put further pressure on pupils, and schools since there will be more assessments. Plus the focus on exams again for the new GCSEs. Again, what support will be given to those children who aren’t doing well or simply don’t do well in an exam situation?

What are we teaching children where they are constantly graded and rated? What impact is it having on their feeling of self worth and self-belief? There seems to be support for either end of the academic spectrum but not for all and certainly little to help for the child who’s confidence has been completely knocked by a less favourable report or a low score in a test/exam or even those who have little or no confidence and self esteem.

And what’s the overall impact? Children believing they are useless, going up to senior school with such low expectations that invariably is a self fulfilling prophecy. And then what happens these children become disruptive, get noticed for all the wrong reasons and are punished as opposed to being supported.

The child rates of depression, bullying, self-harm, substance abuse, and drinking are alarmingly high in the UK. Child suicide remains high although it’s fallen in England and Wales, whereas Ireland has seen a marked increase.

A recent report published by Mindfull, a charity working with young people between 11 and 17, says that “more than a million children in Britain have contemplated suicide or even attempted to take their own life”.

It goes on to say that “nearly three in ten young adults deliberately harmed themselves as teenagers because of their state of mind. And that pressure from school work, fear of the future and lack of confidence are the factors with one in five children suffering from depression on childhood.”

Sadly the continuing taboo re mental health means children and young adults are being prevented from getting the help they need.

“Of the 85,000 young people with a diagnosable mental health problem almost 75% get no treatment and cuts often mean long term support isn’t available.”

And does any of this start with a bad school report? Or failed exams and poor grades on course work and homework? And their parents’ response? And that response can be total lack of interest as well as pressure to improve grades. Not all of them but there are many that have been attributed to the academic pressures and even the pressures of the parents to achieve consistently high grades in everything. And it should be remembered that it impacts children in both state and public schools.

So what can be done to support the children and the parents? Will this be part of the proposals for changing the GSCEs and the assessment for the younger children?

When will see a situation where, as mentioned before, it will be ok not to excel at everything. Where the children who either don’t want to go to university or who will not succeed in achieving the grades to attend will be supported and given the help they too deserve.

Will parents be supported on the signs to look out for in children who are becoming depressed or have lost their self-belief and self worth or worse? And what help will they be given to support their children in those circumstances? Medication is only the answer in very few situations; an understanding of where their feelings come from is far more valuable and effective.

Will we see a truly holistic approach in support in all schools for all children? I don’t know about you but I think every single child deserves that support and its time that we helped to support the parents as well.

To put it simply we are in danger if failing a whole generation. Just as the way we do business needs to change more urgently the support we give children and young adults must change and not be subject to cost cuts ever.

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