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Q&A with Barbara Band, author of Pupil Wellbeing and Mental Health

31 July 2020 Share

Barbara answers six questions to give you some insight into her new publication

This timely publication focuses on wellbeing and mental health- and the many and varied ways school librarians can support pupils, and is available to pre-order now.

1) What is your current role?

I’m currently a freelance school library and literacy consultant, having spent over thirty years working as a librarian in a variety of schools. These days I help schools create inclusive libraries to inspire and entice their pupils, train librarians and teachers, and continue with my advocacy and campaigning work for school libraries.

2) Tell us about your previous publications written for the SLA

I had to look this up as I couldn’t remember! My first publication was “Taking a Leading Role: HPQ Level 2 and the School Librarian” written in 2012 and it came about because I instigated an HPQ programme for a group of Year 9 students at my school. This was before a lot of schools were involved with HPQs/EPQs and the project was very successful in raising the profile of the librarian. “Loud and Clear: Advocacy for Secondary School Library Staff” published 2016 and Train to Gain: CPD for School Librarians” published in 2017 followed, where I drew on my experience as CILIP President, my own CPD journey and Chartership a few years previously, and my campaigning activities. Then last year I had two Riveting Reads published; both aimed at “Reading for Empowerment – Girls”, one for Primary and one for Secondary schools. The “Mental Health and Wellbeing” publication is my latest and one I am very proud of although I found the research very hard; many children today are experiencing mental health issues and the numbers are increasing.

3) How has the ‘lockdown’ impacted on children’s mental health? 

Lockdown will have had a huge impact on so many children – for a variety of reasons. There will be those who have suffered bereavement. Many vulnerable children will have been in a home environment that is not safe and they will not have had access to the necessary support services. In fact it is reported that safeguarding referrals have decreased by up to 50% in some areas – not because of a decline in problems but because schools are the first line in recognising issues. The increase of children being online is likely to have resulted in an increase in cyber bullying; it is acknowledged that social media can have an adverse impact on mental health and self-esteem, and these negative influences are likely to have increased. Also the gap between disadvantaged pupils and others has widened – and those pupils may be anxious about returning to school.

4) Explain how the school library can help with pupil wellbeing 

School libraries can provide several things to help pupil wellbeing: a safe space that students can retreat to; wellbeing activities organised at breaks and after school; a trusted member of staff who they can talk to if necessary; and access to resources, both to help them understand and cope with their issues as well as books to encourage reading for pleasure.

5) What approaches do you recommend that links the school library to supporting mental health throughout the school?

School library staff need to work in collaboration with tutors, senior management and the pastoral team; they cannot provide resources and services for pupils if their needs are not known. The pastoral role of the library should also be recognised by the school and mental health first aid training provided for library staff so they can fully support pupils.

6) Can you recommend three books that are useful for pupil self-esteem? 

  • Fearless: How To Be Your True Confident Self by Liam Hackett, founder and CEO of Ditch The Label, an anti-bullying charity. Easy to read, accessible and full of useful information and advice. (Teens). 
  • Happy Confident Me Journal by Annable Rosenhead et al. Easy to use with lots of activities to help children explore and develop their feelings. (8 – 12 years). 
  • The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy. An inspirational book, with a message of hope and kindness – a modern-day Winnie-The-Pooh story! (All ages).

Thank you Barbara!

Barbara was interviewed by Cathal Coyle, SLA Resources Co-ordinator