Gosport headteacher urges schools to keep an eye out on children's mental health

LOOKING after our children’s mental health is a matter that must be taken seriously as we ease away from lockdown, say headteachers.

By David George
Monday, 8th March 2021, 3:43 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 11:29 am

As pupils piled through the school gates for the first time in months, there was a sea of happy faces in schools across Gosport

Friends were reunited, teachers had their students back and everyone seemed excited about the return to some form of normality.

But behind the abundance of smiles lies the sad reality that some youngsters will have struggled immensely in the past few months, and others will continue to do so.

Kaitlin Bebington was very excited to be back at school. Picture: Sarah Standing (080321-4518)

Headteacher at Rowner Junior School, Kerry Payne, said the school has a responsibility to look out for children’s mental health.

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She said: ‘Some of the children have felt anxious and nervous about coming back to school.

‘Every single child had contact with their teachers with online lessons and one-to-one sessions, so we were already aware of the children feeling those extra nerves.

Kerry Payne, headtacher at Rowner Junior School. Picture: Sarah Standing (080321-4502)

‘We had some children start a little bit later today and some still learning outside the classroom to re-integrate them slowly, and when they’re ready.’

Year 6 pupil Matthew Hylands was one of those who felt a bit nervous heading back into school today.

He said: ‘It is very exciting – I was a bit nervous because we haven’t been at school for ages, but that feeling has gone now.

‘I’ve missed being able to do things like prepare for Dance Live! together so that has been nice.’

Rowner Junior School pupils washing their hands before they start their lessons. Picture: Sarah Standing (080321-4514)

Fellow Year 6 student Issy Naughton added: ‘I was really looking forward to seeing my friends again today, it’s not the same when they’re just on a computer screen.’

Rowner Junior School has been using its Hive – a centre tailor-made for tackling mental health challenges – to great effect.

Pupils Caiden Radford and Alfie Harper spent the first day back at the Hive building, and were excited about the prospect of growing fruit in the back garden this term.

It didn't take long for the playground chatter to commence at Gomer Junior School. Picture: Sarah Standing (080321-2057)

Meanwhile at Gomer Junior School, the focus from parents and pupils alike was on thanking teachers for helping them through lockdown.

The school has run three online lessons for children every day, plus assemblies and even a teacher pantomime at Christmas.

Jonathan Digby, father of Sophie and Anna-Lucia, said he ‘couldn’t have done it’ without the support of what has become known as ‘Team Gomer’.

He said: ‘I’ve been working from home so remote learning has been challenging, keeping one eye on the girls and another on my own work.

‘The school has been really supportive – they provided us with so many resources and the online lessons kept the children engaged.’

Jacob Willis, a Year 4 pupil at Gomer Junior School, said: ‘I’m excited to be back but also a bit nervious because I haven’t been to school in a long time.

Claire Willis, middle, with her children Jacob and Amelia. Picture: Sarah Standing (080321-2070)

‘It’s nice to see everyone again though – learning from home was okay but I prefer being at school.’

Mimi Harvey-Gutteridge, also part of Gomer’s Year 4 cohort, added: ‘I am excited to be back at school. I’ve missed doing maths, it’s my favourite subject.’

The youngster also admitted that having spent the past few months with mum Gemma, she will miss her very much now she’s not learning from home.

Jill Martyn, mother of Year 4 student Mary Martyn, said: ‘It’s been really nice to have her company while working from home, so I will miss having her around.’

At Gomer Junior School, arrivals, departures, breaks and lunchtimes will all be staggered to preserve the social bubble system.

Headteacher Georgina Mulhall said she was overjoyed by how excited pupils were to be back.

She said: ‘It was wonderful to see so many happy children in the playground this morning – I was beaming from ear-to-ear behind my mask.

‘Some children were feeling a bit nervous but once they were back in class and with their friends, they were quickly back to their normal selves.

‘We are really grateful to our parents for their support of virtual learning, the online lessons have been a game-changer for us.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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Jonathan Digby with his daughters (left) Sophie and Anna-Lucia. Picture: Sarah Standing (080321-4428)
From left, Penelope Plant, Hugo Reid, Sarah Duffy, Georgina Mulhall, Jasmine Vignolles and Matthew Grygiel. Picture: Sarah Standing (080321-4468)
Darcey Crascall during a lesson. Picture: Sarah Standing (080321-4459)