The stress and anxiety experienced by children due to lockdowns and lack of socialisation has already been well documented. However, one thing we are beginning to see is the effect of the government’s pressure to “catch up” children to meet their age-related goals and regain momentum towards pre-pandemic results.
Inevitably, teachers are already coming under intense pressure to ensure the pupils in their classes are reaching their expectations with very little mitigation of the difficulties this is causing.
Unfortunately, it isn’t just the teachers feeling this pressure, as the children are at risk of experiencing the fear of failure too.
Pupil Anxiety and Low Resilience
In Early Years
It has been well documented that young children can pick up on the moods of the adults around them and these negative feelings can lead to anxiety and tension.
Children cannot process these negative emotions and lack the understanding to communicate how they are feeling which in turn leads to them losing confidence and becoming upset.
Teach Early Years talked about how easy it is to dismiss how receptive children are to their surroundings and the impact negativity can have.
Many Early Years teachers will tell you that doing a baseline assessment on a child at the beginning of Reception can be made fun and engaging without any expectations of the outcome. However, by October when progress is expected, children can be far more reluctant to take part in assessment activities.
This does not bode well for many children who started well below their age-related expectations in September but will be expected to reach their age-related targets by next July.
By Year 2, when many children are still only 6 years old, they are subject to assessment through SATs. Both teachers and parents often put unwanted pressure on children to achieve. Young Minds discusses how children are negatively impacted by these pressures to perform, leading to anxiety and even school refusal.
School leaders often put pressure on teachers to ensure their class achieves an agreed percentage of age expectation results. Teachers can then unwittingly pass this stress onto their pupils. During these difficult times, it is increasingly important for teachers to communicate with school leaders about the difficulties the children are experiencing as there is no quick fix.
No teacher wants the children in their class to develop a fear of failure or worry about making mistakes. It is possible to use assessment as a way of measuring progress without creating a pressured environment.
Teachers should aim to create a positive environment in their classrooms where children are encouraged to try their best and recover from mistakes so they can carry on with their learning and grow in confidence. These are life skills that will benefit them for the rest of their life.
Follow these ideas to create a classroom that builds resilience and reduces anxiety:
- Show that it is ok to make mistakes. Teachers can make mistakes on purpose when demonstrating to show that it is no problem.
- Reinforce the idea that mistakes are learning opportunities and nothing to be ashamed of.
- Praise effort as well as success.
- Use stories to reinforce resilience and positivity. Stories like Giraffes Can’t Dance are great for reinforcing the idea that effort is just as important as results.
- Focus on building confidence and self-esteem.