Primary School – Main category page – Short description
Primary school covers a child’s transition from early to middle childhood and occurs across the ages of 5-11. It is important to remember that all children develop at different paces with access to supportive secure environments helping the brain mature in a healthy way.
As children move from pre-school to into primary school their brains are still busy growing and developing networks of neurons and connections which are then discarded or reinforced through a process called synaptic pruning. The brain is still very malleable and open to change still but it is being to take on some of structure that will shape their internal world going forward. As these networks take shape, we start seeing children learn academically and socially. Initially this learning requires a lot of focus and is mainly rote in nature, but as this behaviour becomes more automatic allowing children to direct to more specialised areas of learning.
As children continue to develop; more abstract ways of learning become available to them such as inferential thinking this again is supported by the continued formation of neuronal networks and chemical changes that occur facilitating short-term and long-term memories.
We can see from this process that the hardware for adulthood is already being laid down, and just like other academic skills we begin to learn how to manage our internal emotional worlds (a process known as emotional regulation). At this stage it is essential we learn positive internal strategies to cope with world around, especially around negative emotions and how to understand and manage them ourselves (resilience). This is helped by having a positive sense of ourselves (self-esteem) supported by our interactions with others (social confidence).
Primary School Children and Mental Health
At this age children can still experience many of the same mental health concerns that adults do, however it is important to think about these presentations of mental health in the context of a child developing. Whilst more severe mental health disorders are rare (though not unheard of) at this stage, what we see as relatively mild or low level presentations of concern are potentially the beginning of what might become a more serious problem later in adolescence and adulthood. Evidence shows that 50% of all later life mental health disorders begin by the age of 14.
Whilst childhood might be the beginning of a lot of later life poor mental health, it does not have to be this way. Childhood is the perfect opportunity to provide early intervention and strength-based models of care that can provide children with the tools to manage their mental health and wellbeing and reduce the chances of later life illness. We know this works, but we cannot do it without the support of great teachers.
This can be as simple as having a conversation with your class about mental health the Anna Freud centre have made a great animation around talking about mental health which you can use:
We’ve also got lesson plans, exercises and videos of our we’ve created which you can use to teach lessons and set homework just look through our sections for primary school or use the filter on our resources page