We need to talk about Mental Health! - Sian Rowland
June 28, 2020
The figures from last year’s Childline report 'Not Alone Any More' give an indication of what we, as teachers have realized for quite a while, anxiety and mental health concerns are on the rise among children and young people. In fact, they report a 17% increase in counselling sessions about anxiety in the year 2016 to 2017 and one in three class were about mental health and emotional wellbeing .
Life is becoming more and more complex and with the world right there in the palm of your hand in the form of smartphones and tablets, social media hammers on the door even when we don’t want to see it. Exam anxiety has always existed but young people are aware that the career markets are increasingly competitive and universities have high expectations along with the debt that students accrue (no more spending three years drinking and ‘finding yourself’). It’s no wonder that life begins to look pretty intimidating. Working with Year Ten earlier this year I asked the class to list the things they were anxious about. While family life bullying and careers came up the overwhelming answer from the whole class was exams.
What Can We Do?
So how do we address these concerns during PSHE and how are we preparing young people to manage their emotional health and wellbeing and to support each other? While teachers can’t be expected to deal with all aspects of mental health and wellbeing we need to signpost students to the experts for serious concerns by talking more about mental and health in the classroom, we can help young people to recognize their own feelings and the needs and those of others; recognize when they might need help and develop skills to manage their own mental health.
First and foremost the PSHE programme must be well-planned to address the needs of the pupils in your school and include sessions where they can learn, practice new skills and reflect on and discuss the topics. All too often PSHE sessions are too knowledge-based which means the end up rather more of a lecture than a well-planned learning opportunity. This doesn’t mean, however, that PSHE sessions are just about sitting around talking about your feelings. PSHE needs to be planned and delivered with the same challenge and aspiration as other subject areas with a good balance of knowledge, skills, and understanding.
All good PSHE sessions start with ground rules and this is particularly important when talking about mental health. The PSHE Association has some guidance about creating ground rules together. These should include agreed rules on listening, confidentiality and safeguarding. All good PSHE sessions should also include signposting students to further support after the session (such as help in school, the local area and nationally).
It helps to ‘distance’ discussions away from the personal by creating scenarios that students can explore together or using a stimulus such as a film-clip, picture or meme. Encourage students to think of ways they might deal with problems and explore all the ideas acknowledging that there may be several ways of addressing a concern and every person may handle things differently. Encourage deeper thinking by questioning: how could you help a friend who was in this situation? When might you need to get adult support? How would you know a friend needed help? Do we listen to our friend’s problem or we try to jump in and offer solutions immediately? What are the pros and cons of offering solutions? What makes a good listener? Remind students that everyone feels down and miserable sometimes and it’s fine to have moods, feel grumpy or disappointed! It’s when those down times turn into something deeper and longer that we may need to get further help and of course, if thoughts turn to self-harm or suicide then you need immediate help.
By keeping the channels of communication open between students and adults, be there to listen and talk and not rushing to ‘solve’ problems we can create an ethos where young people are better able to talk about their mental health needs.
Here are my five must-dos if you want to support students to be more open about mental health in your school:
Have a look at the PSHE Association’s guidance on mental health. It’s clear, concise and really helpful.
Look at your school’s PSHE programme to see if you’re addressing mental health and emotional wellbeing in lessons. How do the lessons create a spiral curriculum that grows throughout a student’s school career?
Make sure all students know who they can talk to in school and encourage all students to make their own list of three trusted friends they can talk to and three trusted adults (at home or school) they can talk to.
Ensure that concerns about mental health are taken seriously and that the appropriate level of support if given- does the young person need a chat and some support or do they need to be referred to a trained professional?
Keep an eye out for free government training on mental health and for more information about mental health leads in all schools.
Here is a book I have written about the importance of PSHE you can order a copy
Teaching about Nuclear Weapons in Citizenship - CND
June 28, 2020
What would the verdict be if President Truman were put on trial for the atomic-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? How would you act if you were a world leader during a nuclear weapons crisis? What would your pressure group focus on?
CND Peace Education – the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’s education programme – engages thousands of school students across England with questions like these each year.
We aim to empower students with knowledge on the hugely important - and controversial - issues of nuclear weapons and peace, so they can make up their own mind. We encourage critical thinking through creative and collaborative learning methods such as role-play, spectrum activities, group presentations, and origami. At the same time, we are helping students to develop skills such as discussion and empathy.
We offer free, cross-curricular workshops and an assembly, catering to Years 3 to 13. We also have five free teaching packs, thousands of which are downloaded or requested as hard copies annually. Our sessions and teaching packs are very relevant to numerous subjects, including: Citizenship, RE, History, English, and Physics, as well as helping meet SMSC and Prevent requirements. They are all highly regarded by teachers and students alike: see
The importance of peace and nuclear weapons education, and its relevance to Citizenship
In 2008 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child called on the UK Government to make peace education, ‘a fundamental subject in the education system’. Peace education can range from the international level to the interpersonal and inner level: from exploring nuclear weapons debates to practicing non-violent conflict resolution and mindfulness. CND Peace Education focuses on the former, but we hope that the methods that we encourage students to adopt help their interpersonal and personal growth.
Nuclear weapons education specifically is extremely important. The UN strongly advocates nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation education on the grounds that (in the words of then-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2016), ‘It is important to bring the discussion of these critical issues to schools in all countries to inform and empower young people to become agents of peace’.
Nuclear weapons have also been one of the most prominent topics in the media in the last few years. Many students have some knowledge of the issue, particularly regarding shifting relations between the USA and North Korea. However, students’ understanding often lacks nuance and detail. CND Peace Education’s classroom activities help provide that additional information and allow students to grapple with some of the complexity of the subject in an accessible way.
Citizenship is one of the subjects that our sessions and resources link to most strongly. This is partly through the skills that we help students develop (including core Citizenship skills such as interrogating evidence, evaluating viewpoints, and presenting reasoned arguments), but also through the content of the activities:
In our Dial M For Missile pack we get students to think about similarities and differences between the global nuclear weapons landscape (including citizens’ experiences of them) today and during the Cold War.
In Truman On Trial students learn how criminal courts operate, through a mock trial of President Truman for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Extension activities include reflecting on what a fair response to Truman would be if he were convicted whilst still alive. In the Citizenship follow-up lesson from the same pack – a TES Resources ‘Pick’ which was also a finalist in the Education Resources Awards 2018 – students explore media reporting and bias in the context of nuclear weapons.
In The Bomb Factor students examine the UK’s role in the rest of the world, and international rights and responsibilities, in a lesson inspired by The X Factor where they create performances as pro- or anti-nuclear weapons countries in a bid to impress a panel of student judges. You can see it in action here:
. The teaching pack was awarded the Association for Citizenship Teaching’s Quality Mark, and is a TES Resources ‘Pick’.
In Under Pressure students learn about pressure groups and devise plans for their own, based on an issue that they care about. Under Pressure was awarded ACT’s, Quality Mark.
We also encourage learning beyond the classroom, through enrichment activities. For example, in Sadako’s Cranes for Peace we suggest visiting Bradford Peace Museum, submitting students’ news reports to the local paper, and writing to MPs to find out their wish for peace. The teaching pack is a TES Resources ‘Pick’.
Book us for your school, and get our teaching resources!
To book us for a free workshop at your school, or to download/request our free teaching resources click
Active Citizenship - Onda Solidária
June 28, 2020
Vila de Sonhos, a project of the Onda Solidária NGO, is located in Santana do Deserto (MG), a town 30 km from Três Rios and has approximately 4 thousand inhabitants. came representing the British School (Mountgrace School).
Professor Brett Kingsnorth, accountant Khushil Gokani and car designer Michael Gillman spent two days (April 3 and 4) in Rio de Janeiro, where they met the city and went to São Cristovão, on the Onda Esportiva, where they interacted with the children and young people.
Last Thursday (5) Brett, Khushil and Michael came to Vila dos Sonhos and taught classes, exchanged knowledge, culture, played soccer at the Ericeira Minas Núcleo Sports Wave and also collaborated with the construction of the
Village, planting tree saplings, composting (process of recycling of organic waste), among other activities.
During the visit to Santana do Deserto, which lasted four days, the multipurpose space "Chibuzo 'Lucky' Omisa" was inaugurated in the Village of Dreams, in honor of an English student who died last year from cancer and the family helped in the construction of this site, which will be used for numerous activities.
THE EXCHANGE OF IDEAS
The visitors brought letters from the students of England and carried in their luggage the letters of the Santanese. "The intention is to promote this integration, to maintain a relationship of friendship and fraternity between us and them. This wave of goodness, which is international, allows children and young people of the world to connect and learn in a practical and experiential way so that we can be more supportive, "said Ricardo Calçado, founder of Onda Solidária and Vila dos Sonhos. The group returned to England on Sunday.
THE FUTURE FOR VILLA DES SONHOS
The space functions as an eco social center and is a model of education and generation of opportunities based on concepts alternative to the standard of living of large urban centers. It is a school about environment and sustainability.
For five years the Vila dos Sonhos has been offering educational projects aimed at children and adolescents in the region, with activities that include the construction of the first houses with ecological bricks, the production of fertilizer bricks, the reuse of tires, organic gardening, ecological walking, planting trees - more than a thousand seedlings have already been planted, being more than 20 fruit, permaculture course, water catchment, training with young people and teachers and teamwork.
Flipped Learning & Homework Revolution - Manisha Sandev
June 28, 2020
WHAT IS FLIPPED LEARNING
Flipped Learning is not a new concept, however, with the availability of technology, utilising resources already available has made Flipped Learning more accessible for all students. As Economics is a new subject to all students, I wanted to focus on developing the analytical skills that students need to engage with the subject during their lesson time, and renovated homework time to incorporate elements of prior learning to develop their Knowledge. Not only trying to teach the content in a shorter amount of time, I also wanted to improve student’s ability to work independently, and improve their natural curiosity for a subject.
HOW DOES IT WORK
Students were given a breakdown of every sub topic covering all Year 12 content for Economics. Each subtopic had an associated 8-12 minute YouTube clip that explained clearly and concisely the basic content to help the student understand the topic. I would ask students to complete a Microsoft Form, whereby they answered three questions online after watching the video. The Deadline for completing the questions was then set as the evening before the lesson. This enabled me time to re-assess the teaching I was to do in the lesson to focus on any misunderstandings students may have. As the students now see the purpose of their homework, 100% of students now complete their homework, and students start to discuss the content and real world examples they have looked at before they come into lessons. Not only are results for students improving, but student’s relationships among peers and with myself have improve drastically throughout the year. Students now come into the room feeling happier and confident because they have some knowledge about what they are going to learn.
FLIPPED LEARNING ACROSS THE CURRICULUM
I have had personal experience working with other subjects to understand how best they can use Flipped Learning, and the methods and ideas that worked best for them.
Maths: Students watch a video and complete questions before hand.
English: Students read and annotate a text before a lesson.
Music: Students listen to a piece of music before the lesson.
Geography: Students use Google Maps to understand the physical and human environment of an area.
Financial Studies: Students visit a local bank branch and gather information about products and services they offer
Physical Education: Students learn the rules of a sport before playing the sport in a lesson
MY EXPERIENCES AND ADVICE
In the time I have ran my project, all students have become more confident in Economics, whereby it being discussing the theory, criticising the theory or having a better understanding of the Economic world they live in. Between January and March, students’ grades increased on average by 1 grade. From March to May, students’ grades increased on average by 1.5 grades. Compared to November, 50% of the group of students did not want to take Economics in Year 13, however the group all now want to continue into year 13 with Economics.
Not only have students grades improved, but the group of students have become better at researching key concepts, they are more curious about the subject, which, due to Flipped Learning has given them more time to understand changes in the Economy around them. We have been able to differentiate lessons, and focus on developing evaluative and analytical skills within students, focussing on their ability to critique the theory the are faced in. Students throughout the year have seen the impact of Flipped Learning. "It’s helped everything. And if I did understand it then I felt so much more confident when speaking about it in class and it helps move on to exam questions quicker, so we can talk more in-depth about it."
Flipped Learning is a pedagogy that can be applied to all subjects, allowing us to meet the demands of students within lesson time and utilise their homework’s more effectively, enabling students to understand and benefit from homework’s, rather than using homework time to assess previously taught knowledge, we use it to embed learning.
Citizenship & Enterprise in Primary and Secondary Schools - Brett Kingsnorth
June 28, 2020
WHERE IS CITIZENSHIP AT
Teaching Citizenship in schools encourages students to think outside the box, have analytical and enquiring minds and develop an enterprising attitude that can prepare them for life in the real world. However, too often citizenship lessons focus narrowly on giving students specific knowledge rather than giving them the skills to apply this knowledge through active participation and real life examples. Yet, by bringing citizenship and enterprise together and the subject matter can be brought to life and this problem can be solved.
Citizenship is at a crossroads. The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulations and the Department for Education both produced reports that focus on students gaining a deeper knowledge and understanding of citizenship so they can pass their exams. While they consider citizenship as an important part of the curriculum, this leaves less of a focus on the explicit life skills being taught. Citizenship should equip students with a greater knowledge of democracy and government, but I think that it should also offer real life experiences and enterprising life skills, such as teamwork, leadership and negotiating that will help students beyond their schooling.
Over the past three years I’ve had the opportunity to lecture many trainee Citizenship teachers who relish the challenge of not just teaching students a set of facts but to bring the learning to life with links to the real world through studying the topics that affect them and their communities. Citizenship is all about empowering students through an awareness of their rights and responsibilities and helping them to realise the important role they can play in influencing their own communities and society for the better.
THE NEW 9-1GCSE CITIZENSHIP
Recently the Government has made a clear commitment to Citizenship by retaining its National Curriculum status ensuring all students have an entitlement to be taught it. In 2018 the first cohort of the new 9-1 full course GCSE citizenship will collect their results this summer whilst their teachers (like me) will wait with baited breath to see how well they have coped with the loss of coursework and renewed focus on exam technique. It is great to see many more teachers adopted to deliver these new qualifications in citizenship and I hope that more teachers see this as a great way to encourage students to get excited about their learning.
BRINGING LEARNING TO LIFE
To bring learning to life in citizenship lesson I found that project based learning approaches can really engage students in their learning. Back in my classroom, students re-created a United Nations summit to resolve the escalating situation in Syria. Students worked in teams to represent their country’s best interests and learned not only about the role of the UN but the skills of critical thinking, analysing information, negotiation and presenting findings to inform a persuasive debate. This worked well because all students wanted to participate and they learnt many enterprising skills including how to be an effective leader, work well as a team and realise that people have different strengths within a team.
MY EXPERIENCES AND ADVICE
I see the great value in embedding enterprise into citizenship lessons, and learning beyond the traditional classroom based approach. Recently, I’ve seen Bridge Academy, in East London host a Challenge Day called ‘Social Entrepreneur’ where students over the course of the day, work in teams to develop entrepreneurial solutions to social problems that need tackling in their own communities. The day encourages students to become informed members of their own community able to take responsible actions to bring about change. Their learning is brought to life and they have real purpose in what they are doing. It is encouraging to see how citizenship can add real value to the curriculum and to see how many great enterprise projects are going on across the UK that are helping students learn about citizenship.
I believe Enterprise and Citizenship sit naturally together, providing essential enterprising lifelong skills that will help all students to progress further regardless of their ability or background. These subjects help to boost young peoples’ confidence, encourage them to aim high and develop resilience along the way. Importantly, citizenship and enterprise learning can give students essential life skills as well as a sense of responsibility about the community they live in.
Brett Kingsnorth is Head of PSHE, Citizenship and Careers at a large London Secondary School. Citizenship and PSHE Consultant working with schools in South west London. Director of Cre8tive Resources.
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