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Press release

Half of parents concerned about pupils’ mental health and wellbeing as children return to school

More than 70% of parents want schools to be doing more in this area. Less well-off parents are more likely to be concern

A new survey for the Early Intervention Foundation by Ipsos MORI highlights parents’ concern for their children’s mental health and wellbeing as they return to school, often for the first time since March. The survey also showed parents’ strong desire for schools to do more to support pupils to cope at this time.  

London, 13/09/20 - A new survey for the Early Intervention Foundation Ipsos MORI highlights parents’ concern for their children’s mental health and wellbeing as they return to school, often for the first time since March. The survey also showed parents’ strong desire for schools to do more to support pupils to cope at this time.

The survey found that half of parents (51%) are concerned about their child’s mental health and wellbeing as they return to school or go to school for the first time. This is a particular concern for parents from lower-income households (58% for those earning up to £19,999, compared with 44% for those earning £55,000 or more).

Parents are particularly worried about how their children will adjust to changes in the school environment (61%), maintain focus and concentration on school work (45%), reintegrate with other pupils, teachers and staff at school (42%) and cope with worries about the virus (41%).

Dr Jo Casebourne, Chief Executive at the Early Intervention Foundation, commented:

“Schools are under extreme pressure right now, with their attention being pulled in all directions. Yet despite the massive challenges, the focus cannot be on the curriculum and attainment alone. Good mental health is critical to pupils’ ability to learn effectively, and so it’s a crucial part of helping children to bounce back from the disruption they’ve experienced. We also know that the social and emotional skills that underpin mental wellbeing lead to positive outcomes later in life, in education, work, health, and personal and family relationships.

“It’s a particular concern that less well-off parents are more likely to be worried about their children’s mental wellbeing. Providing effective support for children’s social and emotional needs has to be an important part of the recovery plan if we are going to avoid the harmful long-term impacts of the pandemic falling most heavily on the shoulders of the least well-off.”

There is strong support among parents (71%) for schools doing more to support pupils’ mental health and wellbeing. Preferred types of support are targeted help for pupils who may be struggling with poor mental health and wellbeing from a school counsellor or other specialist (56%), more focus on mental health and wellbeing across the school (50%), more time for lessons to support children’s mental health and wellbeing in the school timetable (46%), and better communication with parents about their children’s wellbeing (45%).

Dr Aleisha Clarke, Head of Child Mental Health and Wellbeing at the Early Intervention Foundation, said:

“It’s very encouraging that parents support schools to do more to build up their children’s wellbeing and resilience. Social and emotional learning, or SEL, is a big part of what schools are doing already. Now we know that supporting pupils’ mental wellbeing is a priority for parents and schools, there’s a clear need to increase the resources available to schools to put effective support in place, and carve out time in the school day to make it a priority for pupils as well.

“We know that there are approaches and interventions that are designed to meet many of parents’ concerns, from helping children to reconnect with others, practise social skills with fellow pupils and teachers, and identify and manage their emotions, particularly strong emotions such as sadness, anger or anxiety. We also know that the quality of these interventions and techniques is critical to their success, which places a premium on schools using approaches which have evidence of having worked in the past. Parents’ support for a focus on wellbeing across the school is reinforced by the evidence showing that whole school approaches are an effective way forward, by bringing social and emotional learning into every part of day-to-day school life.”

The survey found four in ten parents (39%) report their child’s/children’s mental health and wellbeing has worsened since lockdown began. This is particularly the case among parents from lower-income households (42% of parents earning up to £34,999, compared with 28% of parents earning more than £55,000).

A lack of contact with friends is the most common reason given for a worsening of mental health and wellbeing (82%), followed by the lack of a daily routine (62%).

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This survey by Ipsos MORI of 643 parents of children aged 4-16 years old in England was carried out between 28th August – 4th September 2020. Data are weighted to the national profile according to gender, age within gender, social grade and region.

In a separate survey with school staff across primary schools in England conducted on behalf of EIF in 2019, 380 of 400 respondents (95%) said that social and emotional learning (SEL) was a priority for their school.

The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) is an independent charity that champions and supports the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children and young people at risk of experiencing negative outcomes. For more information, see:


Andy Ross, Senior Press Officer – 07949 339 975 /

About the contributor

Dr Jo Casebourne

Jo is CEO at What Works for Early Intervention and Children's Social Care.