Anxiety is a normal and often healthy emotion. However, when anxiety is excessive and interferes with daily life, it can become a problem. This is especially true for students, who are often under a lot of pressure to succeed.
Anxiety amongst other mental health challenges has resulted in heightened absenteeism. The BBC News recently reported:
“More than one in five children in England are frequently missing school, data shows, in a sign attendance is still struggling to get back to pre-pandemic levels.”
Raising attendance rates within the education sector is currently a massive focus and implementing new creative solutions can help elevate standards.
Anxiety has heightened, especially since the pandemic, so students’ needs should be addressed with innovative solutions to help overcome any barriers. If you have students with high levels of anxiety, there are some things you can do to support them.
1. Validate their feelings of anxiety
One of the most important things you can do is to validate the student’s feelings. This means letting them know that it’s okay to feel anxious and that you understand their experience. Avoid saying things like “calm down” or “there’s nothing to be anxious about.” Instead, try saying things like “It’s okay to feel anxious. I understand that this is a difficult situation for you.”
“59. Meeting children’s social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs is a crucial aspect of strong SEND provision. Schools and colleges play a vital role in promoting and supporting pupil and student mental health and wellbeing. They work to create safe, calm, supportive and inclusive environments, tackle bullying and teach pupils and students about their mental health and about when to ask for help. Through daily interactions, staff can validate children’s feelings, boost their confidence and increase their resilience. Many education settings also offer targeted support, for example through play therapy or counselling or a nurture or social skills group.”
Allowing students to feel valued and welcomed helps build rapport. Building students’ confidence in small increments gradually allows them to feel more comfortable with whatever setting they find themselves in. This can then allow them to focus more on their education and reach their education potential.
2. Engage more with parents
Parents may become disenfranchised with their child’s education so need some support to help build trust and re-engage them. There could be economic pressures, mental or physical health concerns or various other reasons as to why parents are not engaging, so this is important to consider.
However, it is important to work with the student’s parents or caregivers to develop a support plan. This will help to ensure that the student is receiving consistent support both at school and at home. The School Inspection Handbook highlights:
“227. Inspectors will focus on what our inspection experience and research show are the most important factors to consider. These are the extent to which teachers:
· ensure that remote education, if needed, enables all pupils to access lessons and learn, and monitor pupils’ engagement and communicate with parents and colleagues effectively if there are concerns
266. Inspectors will gather and evaluate evidence about:
· how successfully leaders involve parents, carers and, as necessary, other professionals/specialist services in deciding how best to support pupils with SEND, including agreeing the approach to remote education”
It’s important to involve parents as much as possible and formulate strategies so they can support their child with high levels of anxiety.
Ultimately, children need to have better outcomes and experiences so their parents must be on board to help support their anxiety – take a look at our blog on engaging disenfranchised parents.
3. Accommodate the student’s needs
Work with the student to develop a plan for managing their anxiety in the classroom. This may include providing them with extra time on tests, allowing them to take breaks when needed, and letting them have a “safe place” to go when they are feeling overwhelmed.
“221. All schools are also required to promote the spiritual, moral, social, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society; and prepare pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.”
By promoting a safe learning environment, students will feel more inclined to attend despite their levels of anxiety. Implement plans where students can recharge and compose themselves before returning to the mainstream class to ensure they are moving at a comfortable pace.
Online learning option
Remote learning has become very popular, especially for those with high levels of anxiety and can be very constructive to a child’s personal and academic development.
It is important to recognise that remote learning and part-time timetables should not be used in permanence and every effort should be made to reintegrate students as best as possible.
However, online learning and online APs, such as EDClass, can allow students to become confident in themselves and their learning. This can then allow them to have better experiences in later adult life when they leave school in comparison to them suffering in silence at home, or in class, where their concentration levels are limited.