HELP’s Monitoring System in Action

The 2020-21 school year will be one to remember. School communities across the province are facing many challenges as children and educators return to school amidst the fourth wave of the pandemic, and following a summer of displacement, loss and increased anxiety due to heat and wildfires.

Despite these challenges, our school district and community partners continue to support and promote the collection of critical population-level data that help us to understand and address the experiences and challenges faced by children and families. Here’s what we’ve learned so far from HELP’s monitoring system.

Children’s mental health is still top of mind. 
The disruption of regular routines and support systems over the past 18 months due to public health restrictions have impacted children of all ages. Data gathered using the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) from over 43,000 children in Grades 4 through 8 before and during the COVID-19 pandemic are providing initial insights into this issue. Early analyses of the most recent MDI data from 2020-2021 indicates that fewer children in grades 7 and 8 reported high well-being during the pandemic as compared to previous years, and also reported less presence of key assets, including connectedness to adults and participation in after-school activities.A HELP report published earlier this year highlights a number of MDI data trends that shed light on children’s health, well-being and assets over time and during the pandemic. Further, to explore local data collected during the pandemic, access your MDI School District & Community Reports for the 2020/21 school year.

Adult mental health needs our attention too.

Research is also indicating that it’s not only children who are experiencing negative impacts on their mental health and well-being. Data from the Childhood Experiences Questionnaire (CHEQ) indicate that parents and caregivers of young children were less able to support their child’s play, felt less rested, had less time to take care of themselves, and felt less connected to friends and family during the pandemic as compared to before the pandemic. Further, the well-being of educators is also concerning: a joint study by HELP, BCTF and the BC Ministry of Education of more than 1,200 teachers in BC found that four out of five teachers reported declines in mental health during the 2020-21 school year.  

These issues reflect the far-reaching, and potentially long-term, impacts of the stress and strain of the last almost two years. The good news is that there are evidence-based strategies that are critical in supporting children and families during this time of transition and change that we are paying attention to: 

  • Returning safely to school and participating in in-person education;
  • Connecting to nature and opportunities for outdoor play; and
  • Advocating for high quality, affordable and accessible child care.

It is our goal to ensure the essential information gathered from HELP’s monitoring system is used by educators, district administrators, community leaders, families, and other important stakeholders to work collectively to support our children to navigate the challenges and complexity of this unique time.