Better support for pupils in school | Letters

The endless targets and tests are clearly causing harm, writes Fiona Carnie. And Janet Mearns laments the state of school administration systems when it comes to bereaved pupils

Instead of training up teachers to recognise children who are showing signs of mental distress, it might be preferable to support them to make their classrooms into stress-free zones (Teachers to be trained to spot mental health issues, 17 June). There is no reason why learning should be unduly stressful. And yet at an education conference in London last week, attended by a representative of the Department for Education, there was explicit recognition by headteachers that schools are stressful places. The endless targets and tests are clearly causing harm.

I have visited joyful schools in such countries as Denmark, Finland, Bhutan and India as well as, occasionally, in the UK. It would be a better use of resources to make all our schools into positive, healthy environments where children feel nurtured and respected than to put measures in place to deal with the fallout of a system that is failing those it exists to serve.

Getting rid of SATs would be a good place to start but a more profound root and branch overhaul is needed. Given that neither of the main political parties appears to recognise the scale of the problem, it is surely time for teachers, children, parents and school leaders to work on this together. If schools begin to put children first, they will see better mental health and improved outcomes for all. They need to start now.
Fiona Carnie
Alternatives in Education, Bath

• The report about the lack of school policies for bereaved children (18 June) is very timely. In my experience, teachers’ assumptions and schools’ management and administration systems are so simplistic that their records are designed only for families with a mother and a father (both with the same surname). I recall receiving a letter from my son’s school addressed to “Mr and Mrs” despite the fact that my husband had died many years before my son went to that school. As a form tutor, at another school, I remonstrated with the office about having sent a letter addressed to the recently deceased mother of a 15-year-old pupil. The office staff were understanding and sympathetic, but communications in the school were so poor that a couple of months later another letter was sent addressed to his dead mother.
Janet Mearns
London

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