Anxiety in the Classroom
According to Public Health England (2016), between 2%-4% of five to sixteen year olds have a diagnosable anxiety disorder. This makes them the most common of all childhood psychiatric disorders. Public Health England (2016) also identified significant predictors such as gender, family situation, disability status and home life in relation to developing anxiety. This has also been shown by Putwain (2007), who showed that gender, ethnic and socio-economic background were identiﬁed as signiﬁcant predictors of test anxiety in schools.
As anxiety is one of the biggest mental health concerns for children and young people right now, schools have a very important role to play in supporting those who struggle with anxiety, particularly as early intervention with mental health concerns. Schools can help with identifying anxiety early, and putting in good, holistic support for these children.
Signs of Anxiety
Although not an exhaustive list, some things to look out for if a child or young person may have anxiety is:
- Feeling panicky or nervous
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Trembling or shaking
- Poor concentration
- Feeling nauseas, dizzy or faint
- Difficulty sleeping
- Tired or irritable
If you see a child or young person showing these symptoms, consider getting extra support for them from an educational psychology service. You can also refer the child to a GP, Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHs), or a school nurse.
The most common interventions offered to those with anxiety are cognitive behavioural therapy or other forms of talking therapy. These may be offered by many services, and may be available through the NHS. A doctor may also prescribe medical treatment such as beta-blockers, blood pressure medication or other anti-anxiety medication.
There are a few things that can be done in class to support students with anxiety.
- Visual timetables or timelines: these reduce stress and uncertainty for those with anxiety. They may also give the child a sense of control and predictability for the school day.
- One to One mentoring time: these allow the child to mention any stresses they may be concerned about, and give them a chance to de-stress before it causes more issues. This also allows the school to know
- Regular breaks: offering regular breaks will allow a
References and further reading:
Putwain, D. (2007). Researching academic stress and anxiety in students: some methodological considerations. doi:10.1080/01411920701208258