Mental health is increasingly recognised as a problem for pupils of any age. A 2015 report by the Mental Health Foundation highlighted figures from previous ONS research that suggested 10% of children and young people between 5 and 16 have a diagnosable mental health problem.
The research acknowledges that there’s a lack of recent data on the subject, meaning that the prevalence of mental health issues in pupils could be higher.
Schools are naturally searching for methods of supporting pupils with mental health problems without either jeopardising their education or impacting the learning of other students. This can be a fine line, and it’s one reason why the idea of virtual classrooms is so appealing.
What is a virtual classroom?
The way that virtual classrooms operate allows pupils with anxiety issues to learn away from their cohort. If, for example, a student is struggling with anxiety or depression (as 4% are, according to the aforementioned report), travelling to school and sitting in class can be difficult.
Offering virtual classrooms as an alternative removes this anxiety and ensures that they’re not falling behind with their work.
Virtual classrooms can act as a buffer against a downward spiral of anxiety followed by poor attainment followed by anxiety. It allows pupils, parents and teachers to work together to break a negative cycle and to ensure that learning suffers as little as possible during difficult times.
Virtual classrooms also enable personalisation of the curriculum. If you teach a class with differing skill levels, the ability to offer personalised content suited to different categories of learner can be beneficial for pupils with conduct problems (6% according to the ONS figures).
Thanks to the database potential of some virtual classrooms, you can also monitor data about performance and assess which students may be in need of more assistance.
There is a danger, though, that virtual classrooms may be used for the smooth-running of a school, rather than for the benefit of the pupils involved. If a student’s anxiety is being triggered, for example, by bullying in the classroom, moving that pupil to a virtual classroom might be perceived as a punishment for them and not a solution to the problem.
Equally, if a pupil behaves badly in the classroom due to mental health difficulties, there is the temptation to remove them from the mainstream and fall back on a virtual classroom as a way of delivering learning remotely. Again, this doesn’t solve the problem or help the pupil learn.
Using virtual classrooms as a support mechanism for students with mental health difficulties doesn’t mean that they must be solely developed for those pupils. Virtual teaching and resources can be used across the school to maximise learning and provide additional assistance for all students.
In this way, students don’t feel as though they’re being singled out when they’re signposted towards the services and it will be simply another layer to the assistance offered to modern pupils by technology.
EDLounge and EDVirtual
When developing EDLounge as a whole-school resource, we also created a platform for virtual classrooms, EDVirtual. This gives teachers the ability to create individual online learning pathways to suit every level of ability and attainment, and deliver that learning experience via a secure virtual classroom.
Get in touch if you would like a demonstration of how the EDVirtual platform (and EDLounge) can help you improve outcomes for pupils with mental health issues.