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Robert Halfon joins virtual roundtable with students from Stewards Academy, Essex

Last week, members of the student council at Stewards Academy in Essex took part in a virtual roundtable organised by Place2Be, to talk with Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow and Chair of the government’s Education Select Committee.

Robert Halfon MP call with pupils

The pupils discussed how their mental health has been impacted by lockdown and the disruption to their education.

It’s incredibly tough for young people at the moment. A lot of young people are really worried about their family, particularly if they are key workers and they're in a job where they are vulnerable or at risk. Andrea, Place2Be School Project Manager at Stewards Academy

She added:

“A lot of [students] have talked about sleep issues because they're anxious. Their body clocks all over the place because they're going to bed a lot later and not getting up ‘til later and that has really impacted on young people's mental health.”

I’ve found it hard. Normally I communicate with my friends if I have any problems or go to Place2Be or people at school. It's been a lot tougher because your family is also going through problems at the same time and you don't want to add any more stress onto them. 15 Year Old Student

Several of the students who took part in the conversation have parents who are keyworkers, and described their concern for their parents and reluctance to ask them for help when they are already coping with a lot.

One student, whose mother is a police officer, said:

“My mum’s the first person I go to if I have any worries and at times like these it scares me because if I add those burdens on to her, her mental health might go down. Not only is it her mood, but it affects the whole household too.”

Others commented on their fears about falling behind with schoolwork:

When you look at the work you see a big pile and it just gets on top of you. Year 10 Student

Some of the students felt they had experienced some positives as a result lockdown and that they had been able to put in place a range of coping mechanisms for themselves.

One 15-year-old student shared:

“I'm a lot closer with my family and I've been exercising a lot more, so I feel like it’s quite good for my mental health.”

We’ve been playing board games every Sunday night. Simple things like that is what brings us all together.

And a 14-year-old girl explained:

“I‘ve spent time by myself on my own in my room and I feel like this massively improved my anxiety, 100%. I worked on how I see myself.”

Robert Halfon MP expressed his gratitude for the young people’s willingness to share their thoughts and ideas.

We need more support for charities like Place2Be - I mention all the time that they are brilliant. I’d have Place2Be in every school in the country if I had the power to do it. Robert Halfon MP

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