Last month we had Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, which was a fantastic initiative to raise awareness of mental health. This year’s theme was stress and how to tackle it – yet many found it ironic that this year’s Mental Health Awareness week fell on the same week as Sats and the first main week of GCSE and A level examinations.
There’s no doubt that many children and young people will have experienced a very stressful week in preparation for Sats and exams. A survey by Tes and the NEU teaching union found that 30% of teachers said their schools even asked six and seven-year-olds to revise at home for Key Stage 1 Sats.
Three-quarters of teachers also said that the curriculum was squeezed in preparation for Key Stage 1 Sats while thousands of worried parents of Key Stage 2 pupils downloaded a template Sats withdrawal letter from the campaign group ‘Let Our Kids Be Kids’.
There are concerns that practice test papers are being favoured over extra-curricular activities and some physical education lessons are even being squeezed out of the timetable for mock tests and exam practice. Meanwhile, other research has shown that children are receiving less than two hours of physical education per week. The charity ‘Youth Sport Trust’ says that 16 – 18-year-olds are doing, on average, just 34 minutes of physical education a week at school.
The importance of outdoor play
With a new tougher curriculum having been introduced in 2014, the pressure is being felt by all: teachers and schools are feeling pressurised to ‘get through’ the curriculum while children are feeling under pressure to get good results.
Did you know that during Mental Health Awareness Week it was also ‘Outdoor Classroom Day’? Thursday 17th May saw over 1.7 million children playing and learning outdoors worldwide and over 340,000 of those were here in the UK. The campaign highlights the importance of time outdoors for children during the school day, including at playtime.
Michael Follet, the UK’s leading expert in playtime and director of Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) CIC urges the importance of playtime to be seen as a necessity, not just a luxury. “There is a wealth of evidence that supports the importance of children having time to play and be active, at school and in their everyday lives,” he says. According to Outdoor Classroom Day’s findings, after outdoor playtimes teachers saw improvements in engagement with learning (57%), concentration (75%) and behaviour (58%). Read more about their findings here.
Learning outdoors with Home-School Tutoring
At Home-School Tutoring we believe there are endless way to get outside, get active and get creative with learning!
Emily Ellen, our Area Advisor for Cornwall & The Isles of Scilly, says:
“I regularly encourage tutors who work with students in Cornwall to take them outside to learn, especially for science and geography work.
“When I was teaching modern foreign languages, I also used to play games outside with my classes to encourage vocabulary acquisition and reinforce learning of topics such as ‘time’ by making a human clock or ‘directions’ by drawing out an imaginary town with chalk. I found that students were more engaged and better behaved when they were learning outside.”
Maths and other subjects can also be taught in fun and effective ways outside, as our photo of one of our West Hampshire tutors teaching a pupil about ‘number bonds’ shows.
Supporting students with mental health issues
We are only too aware of the mental health issues affecting young children and young people here at Home School Tutoring. We also understand the challenges that teachers and schools face with regards to curriculum targets.
We aim to listen and may be able to guide parents who seek specialist support outside the classroom and other support services in their area.
Margaret Sweetland, Director of Home-School Tutoring, explains: “Although we don’t set ourselves up specifically as counsellors or life coaches, we are an organisation committed to the needs of our pupils. We have tutors who are able to support students suffering with mental health issues with understanding and encouragement and with particular pastoral care and concern.”
At Home-School Tutoring we seek to advise and promote enjoyment in learning. We believe that education is for life and education prepares you for life itself!
Perhaps it was fortunate that Mental Health Awareness week fell on the week of SATs and the first week of exams. We hope it encouraged students to take a short break and make sure they got a good night’s sleep before their exams.
It was also a timely reminder for all of us about the importance of our wellbeing versus productivity – and that education really does go beyond the classroom. While we learn to balance the books, we are always learning to balance life itself too.
If you would like a tutor to support your child’s learning needs, do get in touch with us today at Home-School Tutoring. Type in your postcode above or browse our locations to contact your local HST area advisor.