Mental Health in Schools: Our contribution to changing the way we learn online

As the phased re-opening of primary schools begins this month , there is still the debate between concerned parents, government authorities and teaching professionals about how safe it is. So that got us thinking, what could we do to help?

As the Coronavirus pandemic hit us, Freedom Foundation were delivering programmes all across Nottingham. Our work in schools focused on promoting positive mental health and wellbeing, self confidence, aspiration and ambition has been working well. Three years after our inception we were finally starting to achieve our ambition becoming  the social enterprise business we had set out to become.
As schools closed we saw (like many) our business finish overnight and woke up anxious and uncertain. Stacey and I have faced many bumps in the road during this three year journey and we couldn’t believe that we would be facing our biggest challenge yet. 
We have learnt to keep calm and we knew that schools would prioritise mental wellbeing and learning of the children. So as we sat back and watched the world look at different ways to connect with each other, homeschooling start, everyone navigate their way through different technologies (such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Houseparty, WhatsApp ) we worried about how we would survive and how we could adapt and possibly reach children in a way that would emulate what we deliver in person.  
I’m a big believer that there will always be an opportunity somewhere in a crisis and this came in the form of being gifted an on-line learning platform that would (nearly) help us achieve this. Our friends at Infinity Global  have worked with us over the last 8 weeks to develop a safe online learning space that enables the children we work with to enter their own community with their peers and friends. Yes, they’ll still receive live sessions but we felt we needed to provide greater support and our ethos of providing a safe space for children and young people to explore themselves, the outside world and talk about how they’re feeling in the current climate can be achieved in this community. 
We’ve all seen as time has gone on our energy for digital communication has waned yet we also know that all this has changed how we will access information and learning. Some children we work with are shy and actually this may be a better way of reaching them.
Everyone working with children has done a great job in adapting to the crisis and using different methods of reaching the people they work with, I have seen some amazing and innovative approaches and I am so pleased to see that many, particularly the vulnerable are still being supported.
We hope that our Communities as they launch next week will give the children we work with the opportunity to engage in physical activities and also explore how they are feeling, realise they are not alone and navigate their way with renewed confidence to what will become the new norm – whatever that looks like!