By Dr Davina Deniszczyc, Charity and Medical Director, Nuffield Health
Children, teachers and parents are all having to adapt to the new situation of learning at home, home schooling or an empty classroom. The unique situation of COVID-19 meant no one had any time to prepare and people quickly needed supporting materials.
While we at Nuffield Health may be known mostly for our gyms and hospitals, we have spent the past six years looking into the nature of wellbeing in a school environment – and for the past 18 months we’ve given more than 15,000 young people and teachers tools to manage their own wellbeing, through our School Wellbeing Activity Programme (SWAP).
SWAP has been successful for us, but once lockdown and social distancing measures came into effect we quickly needed to find new ways to support a culture of positive wellbeing.
We wanted to use the learnings we’ve taken from SWAP, but at the same time acknowledge and react to the unique challenges of this situation. Young people are now being asked to absorb information differently and in a new context. Learning to pass exams is no longer the chief objective – now it’s learning for a good education.
Parents are facing the harsh realities of how tough being a teacher can be. Of course, they know their children, but they may not be able to spot educational cues teachers can from their years of training and experience.
For some this means trying to provide a good education when academic achievements may not be an area they excelled in, or while continuing a full-time job. Or both. As a mum of two kids trying to balance work with being a parent, I’m not ashamed to admit to bribery as a negotiating tactic!
Finally, from a teacher perspective, governance and quality standards need to be maintained. Ofsted will still be there when school resumes, so they need to find new ways and new resources to teach in a different way. Particularly when you consider wellbeing was to be introduced as a key part of the school curriculum from 2020/21.
For providers, it is not as simple as taking what you have and rebranding it with a coronavirus sticker. Services need to reflect the challenges people are facing and serve their needs.
This is what we have tried to do with our ‘kids wellbeing’ materials. Understand the circumstances to design the right intervention for the right outcome. The resources we have produced include a wellbeing journal, activity sheets, a wellbeing fact-file, a parents’ guide and home workouts.
The feedback we have received so far has been excellent and people are appreciating the value of resources that have been designed specifically for their needs.
Now our attention is turning to trying to anticipate future gaps when, as a society, we can start to recover and reset to a new normal. This will be particularly challenging for children, who will be at risk of emotional burnout or dips in attainment.
Who knows what new world children will need to transition to – it could be that only half their school reopens, they might have a new curriculum to follow, new lesson structures or even changes to the entire timetable of a school day. And what are the resources people will need in these scenarios?
Providers’ agility is being tested and they are being challenged to adapt as the world around us is redefined. It’s a challenge Nuffield Health is determined to rise to. Our charity’s purpose is to build a healthier nation, and that does not change because we are working remotely.
Supporting the health of the nation and local communities has arguably never been more important and will continue to be in the face of ongoing changes in response to the pandemic. We are all going to have that ‘first day of school’ feeling for a while yet.