Socialist Worker

Mental health affecting pupils’ exam results

by Sam Ord
Issue No. 2765

Working class children are most likely to be affected by poor mental health

Working class children are most likely to be affected by poor mental health


Pupils experiencing poor mental health are over three times less likely to achieve five GCSEs at grades A*-C, or 9-4, than their peers.

And working class children face mental health issues on a disproportionate scale.

The Millennium Cohort Study found that the poorest children are 4.5 times more likely to suffer severe mental health issues than the richest.

Researchers from the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) also outlined how children from poorer backgrounds are more likely to face the greatest challenges when trying to “catch up”.

NatCen warned how pupils now face a “double hit” to their education as the pandemic has disrupted both their learning and mental health.

Difficulties

It also discovered a link between mental health difficulties and ­educational attainment at age 16.

Researchers analysed responses from 1,100 children aged 11-14, discovering that mental health problems are more likely to affect boys’ educational attainment.

In the study, factors that affect mental health were controlled for, such as poverty and child-parent relationships.

But even then, children with mental health difficulties were still twice as likely to not gain five GCSEs, including maths and English.

The NatCen study argues that improving mental health can narrow the attainment gap at GCSE level.

Dr Neil Smith who led the study said, “As the school year comes to an end, young people are facing a double hit to their educational prospects.

“First, disruption to schooling caused by the pandemic has directly impacted on learning.

Second, the pandemic has adversely affected many young ­peoples’ mental health.

Mental health made worse in pandemic by class and poverty
Mental health made worse in pandemic by class and poverty
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“It’s likely those whose mental health was affected the most by the pandemic will face greater difficulties in making up for learning time that’s been lost.”

The government claims that they are pumping £950 million to support pupil’s needs. But this doesn’t go nearly far enough.

Austerity is partly to blame for poorer children being more likely to suffer mental health difficulties, and as such, underachieve in school.

Budget cuts to NHS mental health services have led to understaffing, so many go without help. As a result mental health services are overwhelmed by the increase of cases and the rescheduling of appointments due to pandemic safety restrictions.

Long waiting lists mean it can be months or years before a pupil in distress can have an appointment with a mental health professional.

As cases continue to rise, ­pressure will be piled into the home and exacerbate existing problems.

Parents are being forced into unsafe workplaces, and the Tories want to cut Universal Credit £20 top-up soon.

The easing of restrictions will present a new wave of the mental health crisis.

It will take a fight to push the Tories to fund ­children’s mental health services properly.


Posh schools lobby to get pupils into universities

Tory policies push over one million children of key workers into poverty
Tory policies push over one million children of key workers into poverty
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Private schools have been lobbying universities to accept their students on to prestigious courses—even if their grades are too low to see them qualify automatically.

Teachers are awarding A-Level grades themselves this year, meaning schools already know what grades each of their pupils has achieved .

But rich schools are using disruption to A-Levels exams caused by the pandemic, and the two‑week gap before results are published, to ensure their students are given a place.

Barnaby Lenon is the chairman of the Independent Schools Council that represents 1,300 schools.

He is also the former headmaster of Harrow—the £14,555 a term private school.

He said that some schools sent pleading letters on behalf of pupils who had dropped a grade.

Posh schools have mostly targeted Russell Group universities, including Oxford and Cambridge.

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