Stressed-out schoolchildren to get counselling.

Stressed-out schoolchildren to get counselling.

Young Minds, a children’s charity, has launched a helpline for youngsters and many local education authorities have followed suit in the run-up to the new term.

This is a key issue,’ said the charity’s director Peter Wilson. ‘We know that a lot of children are coming into school in a more unstable state than ever before.

‘The cross-over between mental health work and teaching needs to be better recognised by politicians, teachers and schools. We are all too obsessed with behaviour.’ The Joseph Leckie School in Walsall has become the first school in the country to develop special out-of-hours sessions to help children to make the transition from primary to secondary school.Stressed-out schoolchildren to get counselling.

In response to parental worries about the psychological effects of the move and wider fears that standards of literacy and numeracy fall drastically at the time of transfer, teachers at Joseph Leckie bus in pupils from the nearest two junior schools. Classes are then held with the newcomers and younger children already at the school. The Bright Sparks Club is run by the education charity Community Education Development Centre in Coventry. Observers from the Department for Education and Employment have been so impressed with the scheme that they are considering extending it to all schools.

Meanwhile, charities such as Kids Company and The Place to Be train counsellors to go into schools to help children through traumatic experiences, including the first days at a new school. A spokeswoman for The Place To Be said: ‘Although we used to get some resistance from teachers, they now know that the presence of a trained therapist or counsellor in a special room set aside for the purpose helps children who are having problems dealing with school.

The trauma may be starting a new school or something more dramatic such as bullying, the death of a parent or the horrors undergone by some refugee children.’

Ministers are known to be concerned about the drop in standards in the first year of secondary school. A study by Professor Maurice Galton, of Homerton College, Cambridge, found that seven per cent of children completely unlearned basic skills in their first year at school and 40 per cent failed to make satisfactory progress.

The first day of secondary education, which begins this week for most pupils, is thought by many psychologists to be the most traumatic day of many children’s lives and schools say they are responding to the demands of parents.

Pupils as young as four are now being tested on basic literacy and numeracy and many educational psychologists believe youngsters are beginning to crack under the pressure.

A recent Mental Health Foundation Survey found that one in five children was suffering from depression, often as a result of school-related problems.

But traditionalists last night criticised the moves and said taxpayers’ money would be better spent on books and teachers.

John Marks, director of the Educational Research Trust, said: ‘For generations people have survived this so-called trauma without its doing them any lasting damage.

‘One thing that would help would be getting children to the right standard before they go to secondary school.’