Ground breaking project to tackle childhood anxiety - Education Matters Magazine
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Ground breaking project to tackle childhood anxiety

primary students-mental health anxiety

The New South Wales Primary Principals’ Association has launched ‘The Anxiety Project’ in an effort to tackle the rise of anxiety in primary aged children.

The NSW Primary Principals’ Association (NSWPPA) ‘Anxiety Project’ will see principals, teachers, learning support staff and parents across 58 NSW Primary Schools taking part in a world first pilot program aimed at reducing anxiety in primary aged school children.

“For the past two years the NSWPPA have been working in collaboration with Australia’s leading anxiety, child, teen and adult behaviour-change specialist organisation Parentshop to develop a proactive and response intervention to deliver a whole of school community approach to reduce anxiety of primary school age children,” said Ms Robyn Evans, President of the NSWPPA.

The genesis of ‘The Anxiety Project’ followed a survey conducted by the Australian Primary Principals’ Association (APPA) which showed a concerning rise in the rates of anxiety being faced by young children in schools.

The APPA report, released in 2020, found that nine out of ten primary school principals said that anxiety was placing strain on time and resources and that their staff needed to be better trained in identifying and addressing anxiety in students, with additional resources needing to be developed to assist parents to recognise and deal with their children’s anxiety.

In response to the APPA report, the NSWPPA put together a steering committee to examine ways to tackle the issue, inviting in one of Australia’s leading child behavioural experts, psychologist and Parentshop Founder Mr Michael Hawton, to develop a parent and teacher-led fit for purpose intervention program that would provide a whole of school community approach to address childhood anxiety.

Mr Hawton described the overwhelming response of schools taking part in the pilot phase of the project reflected the strong need for a new approach to managing anxiety in NSW primary schools.

“This is a ‘whole of school project’ that is not reliant on finding more school psychologists that can only address the needs of a few children at a time, nor is it a generalist wellbeing program. ‘The Anxiety Project’ is a fit-for-purpose program that targets childhood anxiety by changing the thousands of everyday interactions teachers, classroom support staff, and parents have with children to make a real and sustainable difference to anxiety in schools,” he said.

Describing the project as a school-wide cultural shift Mr Hawton said that “the project is aimed at helping to improve resilience-thinking skills for students, teachers and parents with the goal to help every child achieve optimal mental health, well-being and educational success.”

NSWPPA has described the new program as being focused on reducing anxiety and building resilience in primary school students, which will also help improve educational outcomes and assist participating schools further implement recommendations from the Productivity Commission inquiry into Mental Health.

About The Anxiety Project

  • Training programs at 58 schools involving 62 school leaders, 87 specialist implementation coaches, 986 teachers and approximately 3,828 parents all taking part in the program.
  • The program will positively impact 20,000 NSW students.
  • Training and resources to support implementation coaches, teachers, and principals to ensure they always have access to the latest research and resilience practices available to them.
  • Helping schools to connect with their communities to ensure there is a whole of school cultural change to addressing anxiety and improving student wellbeing.

About the NSWPPA

The NSW Primary Principals’ Association is a professional association for Primary Principals of Public Schools throughout New South Wales with a membership of over 1800 Principals. It is the peak advisory body on matters relating to primary education in NSW. For more information, visit www.nswppa.org.au

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