A London school in a deprived, crime-affected area said it had seen a near doubling of safeguarding referrals in the wake of the pandemic — and that staff could not give their pupils the mental health support they needed without the backing of our Young London SOS campaign.
Tom Raymond, principal of Oasis Academy Arena, a secondary school in South Norwood where 67 per cent of the 525-pupil roll are on free school meals, said the pandemic has had “a very significant impact” on pupils’ lives.“
Over the last two academic years, safeguarding referrals at our school have almost doubled from 11 to 21,” he said.
“These relate to disclosures on domestic violence, food poverty, self-harm and eating disorders.
“Ours is a great school on a strong upward trajectory since our ‘inadequate’ Ofsted rating three years ago”
“But like many schools in London, we have challenging social factors to contend with, including concerns around knife crime and gang affiliation that thankfully we have kept at bay beyond the school gates.”
Mr Raymond’s school is one of 10 to receive funding from our Young London SOS appeal, launched in January to heighten public awareness of mental health problems and which has raised almost £250,000 from Standard readers and corporate donors to deploy the counselling services of our campaign partner Place2Be.
Seven of the 10 selected schools have never had Place2Be provision before, while the remaining three — including Oasis Academy Arena — are able to offer extra days of support or simply continue their provision in the wake of budget cuts because of our funding. All the provision will begin in September.
Mr Raymond said their £15,422 funding would enable them to expand their Place2Be support to two days a week and would mean 50 pupils — 10 per cent of the roll — getting one-to-one counselling over the course of a year with a third accessing the lunch-time self-referral drop-in service known as Place2Talk.“
Many children have had a tough time over the pandemic and we want to do everything we can to keep them engaged in their learning and safe,” he said.
“We have a policy reducing our exclusions to a minimum — they are down 80 per cent in the last three years — because we know that kids face severe external risks when excluded, and the support of services like Place2Be is absolutely crucial to this endeavour.”
“Some of our children felt real loneliness and isolation over lockdown and when they returned they struggled to socialise.”
“The year sevens were most affected because they missed their final year of primary school and weren’t able to properly prepare for the transition to high school so some found it hard to settle back into learning.”
Another three schools that have received our financial backing for Place2Be support, all of them for the first time, are Walker Primary School, the Wroxham and Larkspur Primary.
All three are part of the Ivy Learning Trust group, a 10-strong primary school multi-academy trust in Enfield and south Hertfordshire.
Matthew Kleiner-Mann, CEO of the trust, said our funding would help them to destigmatise mental health and make it part of everyday conversation.
“It’s healthy for children to learn that they can be open about their problems, because if they get help early on, it sets a template for how they will respond to problems as a teenager and as an adult.”
He said problems that arose over lockdown included family break-ups, bereavements and anxiety as well as feeling “left out” in the playground.
“Friendship fall-outs can seem minor but they can form the beginning of a conversation about developing empathy and may also point to other underlying worries.
“The message we want to give out is that we offer good on-site mental health provision to children alongside good physical health, maths and English. Without this backing from the Evening Standard, we’d be unable to afford it.”