An online school expert says more needs to be done to help school dropouts and has shared his advice for parents following new research from the Center for Social Justice (CSJ).
Research has found that a fifth of all children have been ‘absent’ from school since the COVID pandemic. There has also been a “dramatic rise” in the number of young people being homeschooled, with the number up 34 per cent since before the pandemic, largely due to the rising number of children being diagnosed with mental health problems , such as post-lockdown anxiety.
Coupled with the growing number of school dropouts in the UK, there is a growing number of parents who are faced with a difficult decision – whether to keep their child in mainstream school or to seek an alternative. Add to that the darker mornings and darker nights making this upcoming semester one of the more difficult ones for those who are already struggling, and it can be a recipe for stress and anxiety for the whole family.
With that in mind, Lawrence Tubb, principal at independent online school Minerva’s Virtual Academy, shared his advice and tips for parents on how best to support your child when school-related anxiety takes over.
It’s not just adults who are affected by the changing seasons, and the six months leading up to Christmas are often the hardest for most children, Lawrence explains:
“Dark mornings and dark nights can have a profound impact on children’s moods, much like they do in adults.
“There are endless studies showing that the changing seasons affect our learning patterns, and it’s important to recognize that every child learns differently – what works for one child may be the completely wrong option for the next.”
“In Minerva’s Virtual Academy, we eliminate the fear of the physicality of school, allowing children to focus solely on learning. The results are incredible.” There are a few telltale signs that your child may be afraid of school, says Lawrence: “One of the biggest warning signs is when your previously enthusiastic child begins to withdraw from school life.
“There will always be elements of school that your child doesn’t enjoy, but if they start rejecting subjects they used to enjoy, it can be a telltale sign of anxiety.
“Physically, an increase in physical ailments like headaches, stomach aches and fatigue can be a sign of stress, and likewise an increase in absenteeism or attempts to convince you to let them stay home from school is something else to look out for should pay attention.
“Outside of school, a change in sleep patterns can be another sign of anxiety, as can an unwillingness to socialize with friends or family. In fact, you know your child better than anyone, so keep an eye on any significant changes in behavior.”
When it comes to addressing some of these issues, it’s all about communication, says Lawrence.
“It seems simple, but talking to your child and allowing them to share some of their concerns is always the first step you should take. Having that clear and open dialogue can make them feel empowered to come to you when they’re feeling a little down.
“Talk about possible coping strategies. Whether it’s a specific relaxation routine before bed to help them sleep better, breathing exercises, or some simple meditation techniques, it will help them understand that there are ways to relieve their symptoms.
“After you and your family, the people your kids spend the most time with each week are their teachers, so the next step is to talk to them. See if there are ways you can help alleviate their symptoms both at home and at school, and if there is anything that could be implemented at school to support them through the school day.
“As the old saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved, and often one of the first hurdles is showing your child that they are not alone.”
It’s also important to remember that while general education, contrary to everything we’ve been told, just isn’t right for every child, there are alternatives, says Lawrence.
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to education and it is clear that some students do better outside of a traditional classroom setting, particularly when they are struggling with anxiety.
“Rather than losing these kids from the system entirely, online education can help them regain the confidence they need to learn effectively.
“Just recently we had a girl who was very scared and refused to go to school. She came to Minerva to study for her GCSEs and after completing these she felt able to return to physical college to complete her studies. It was a great success all round and shows that sometimes all it takes is a change in environment to help our children thrive.”
For more tips, advice or to learn more about Minerva’s Virtual Academy, visit www.minervavirtual.com
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