What schools and further education settings can do

Guidance for primary schools, secondary schools and further education settings on supporting anxious pupils.

If you are at all concerned about a child or young person, you should always speak to your designated safeguarding lead as a matter of priority. They will be able to advise on suitable next steps, and speaking to them about any concerns should always be the first action you take, ahead of any of the suggestions on this page.

Although the suggestions on this page are broadly split into primary and secondary age groups, the majority of the advice can be applicable for all ages. All children and young people are different, and it’s important to understand the needs of the individual child and young person when looking for ways to support their mental health and wellbeing.

What primary schools can do

Teach social and emotional skills

A key way that primary schools can help with children’s anxiety is to teach social and emotional skills, including resilience. Children who have developed resilience are more likely to be able to deal with stressful or anxiety-inducing situations without feeling overwhelmed or panicked.

Use emotion management tools

If children are displaying signs of anxiety, their worries may be able to be managed in the moment with certain tools or coping mechanisms. Tools like this anxiety thermometer can help children easily express the level of anxiety they are feeling, while mindfulness activities can help children calm down if they are experiencing heightened anxiety.

For pupils who regularly feel anxious, there are tools for managing emotions which could be employed on a regular basis.

Speak to your safeguarding lead

If it seems as though a child may have an anxiety disorder, and it is disrupting their learning , you should always raise your concern with your designated safeguarding or mental health lead. From there, you can decide what action to take together, like referring the child to the school nurse, involving the child’s parents, or referring to specialist services where necessary.

What secondary schools and further education settings can do

Develop social and emotional skills

Developing secondary school or post-16 students’ social and emotional skills is still very important even as they get older. If they can be resilient and regulate their own emotions, they will be able to cope better with difficult situations.

The curriculum areas that focuses on health and wellbeing (RSHE in England, LLF in Northern Ireland, and Health and Wellbeing in Scotland and Wales) each have a focus on giving students the tools to manage their own emotions. There are lots of useful resources focused on resilience for secondary schools, including:

Teach techniques for emotional regulation

If you have a student who regularly feels anxious or worried, you can employ techniques from a type of therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT. CBT helps young people link their thoughts, feelings and behaviours together, and recognise how they all influence the others.

We have developed some resources which draw on CBT techniques which you can use with your students:

Inform your safeguarding lead

If a student is unable to manage their anxiety, you should always speak to your school or college’s pastoral team about your options. You may want to refer the student to your school/college counsellor (if you have one), or to specialist support services.

Concerned about a child or young person?

If you are worried that a child or young person is at risk involve your designated safeguarding lead as a matter of priority who will contact the parents/carers and other services as necessary. If the child or young person is at immediate risk, ensure that they are taken to their GP or A&E as a matter of urgency, depending on the severity of the concern.

Find out more

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