Scared children don’t want to go to school. Psychologists help, but they are few

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Children and teachers have yet to recover from endless distance learning, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine has arrived. And with it a wave of war refugees in Czech schools. School psychologists therefore have an invaluable role in schools. That is to say, only where they have them. They are desperately few in Czech primary and secondary schools. Full-time, only 520, or one psychologist for 2,682 students.

“The anxiety is enormous. But the children have to relearn how to reconnect. It is more difficult for introverted students. So more aggressive manifestations appear, because they have not worked together as a team for two years. But children need to get their emotions in different ways, so we deal with things like sprayed toilets more often,” describes David Vaněk, a school psychologist at Šlapanice Primary School.

I worked with a child who had a very strong school phobia. We addressed intense abdominal pain and concerns. But after a year, the child is functioning very well. He’s happy with school again, he can name his strengths, and it’s a joy when I meet him at school now.

Andrea Mikotová, school psychologist working at the primary school in Šlapanice

Other school psychologists, with whom the List of Reports spoke, also confirm that the children have not yet accepted their return after the covid. However, in most schools children’s feelings are routinely addressed in a limited way as they do not have psychologists available. Schools don’t have the money from the state yet, so they have to deal with it themselves if they decide it’s worth paying for such an expert. What foreign experience and data clearly confirm.

“I worked with a child who had a very big school phobia. We addressed the concerns and severe abdominal pain. But after a year, the child is functioning very well. He is happy with the school again. school, he can name his strengths and it is a joy when I meet him at school now,” says Andrea Mikotová, second school psychologist at Šlapanice primary school.

Although the local base is large, more than nine hundred students attend it, it still has no money allocated for school psychologists in the budget. To afford them, she must collect the funds literally in small parts.

“Before, through various activities at school, we managed to earn some money, so we invested it in a school psychologist. Currently, we fund these positions in part through additional activities, templates and a contribution of the founder”, calculates the director of the school Pavel Vyhňák.

Mixed oven or psychologist

But it always depends on the director if he is able to get some extra money. However, there are a number of progressive founders in the Czech Republic who realize that a school psychologist is not a luxury, but an absolute basic. This was further confirmed by the recent school tragedy in Prague, where a student killed a teacher. In the case of the school, the Czech School Inspectorate pointed out that the school guidance center had major shortcomings. Some municipalities finance a school psychologist for their schools.

An example is Rožnov pod Radhoštěm, which has been paying two school psychologists for five of its primary schools since 2016. And so the schools are sharing them. Psychologists are directly employed by the municipal authority, which is a relatively unique approach in the Czech environment.

“It is clear that the position of school psychologist in schools is necessary and should be the norm. But I understand that a small community may need to consider whether the school will use a combi oven in a canteen rather than a psychologist. However, it was possible to draw a number of grants on equipment in the past. So what we saved went to the psychologists,” says Kristýna Kosová, deputy mayor of Rožnov pod Radhoštěm.

The city is thus willing to invest in education beyond what is common to most founders. And it is also counting on the development of support positions for schools. Kindergartens could also get their school psychologist from the fall. If the city council approves the plan, even three psychologists will be employed on the city council.

“Thanks to a school psychologist, we are able to solve problems that arise in various ways. Even her parents will give her an independent point of view, even if they were not so willing to listen to the main teacher”, explains Pavlína Ondryášová, director of the Rožnov primary school in the Koryčanské Paseky housing estate.

Even mental disorders in children are not exceptional. Some of its forms disturb up to ten percent of them. For example, according to statistics from general practitioners, up to 4% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 suffer from depression. Data from the Institute for Health Information and Statistics shows that children are most often treated with psychotic disorders, i.e. various problems with perception or thinking, and then suffer from neurotic symptoms such as phobias, anxiety or obsession.

“We are always dealing with psychosomatic issues with the children, such as abdominal pain due to anxiety that they have to physically return to school after covidid. But we also try to prevent potential problems. For example, the children are tasked with imagining that a magician has come and can grant their three wishes. From what they want, it is sometimes possible to find out what is bothering them, and we can discuss it together,” explains the example of one of the activities of school psychologist Karin Petřeková.

Ostrava plan: a psychologist in each school

But the furthest is from the big cities of Ostrava. The Silesian metropolis has its own strategic development plan. Among other things, it predicts that by 2030, each of the city’s 55 schools will have its own school psychologist. For this reason, Ostrava also supported the establishment of a follow-up master’s degree in psychology at the University of Ostrava, which the Faculty of Arts has not yet offered.

We are still dealing with psychosomatic issues with the children, such as abdominal pain due to anxiety that they have to physically return to school after covidid. But we also try to prevent potential problems. For example, children are instructed to imagine that a magician has come and can grant their three wishes. From what they want, sometimes you can find out what’s bothering them and we can discuss it together.

Karin Petřeková, school psychologist

“As part of the project, we have support positions in 25 schools. We are trying to build school guidance centers, because we want specialized and social pedagogues to work there, in addition to the school psychologist. “is not systematic. We provide part of the funds for the project, other funds come from the models and the rest is covered by the district”, explains deputy mayor Andrea Hoffmannová (Pirates), who is struggling to find funding sources.

In addition, in-depth methodological work can be shown in one of the city districts, thanks to which schools manage to manage their counseling workplaces for the benefit of children. In Ostrava-Poruba, this has only just begun with the provision of school psychologists. In addition, consulting professionals meet regularly, train and share their experiences. The district sponsors this methodological support to schools.

“In this way, we can avoid various unforeseen problems, but above all we can work systematically with the school guidance centres. Individual teams made up of school psychologists, specialist pedagogues and, more recently, homeroom teachers meet regularly. Together they solve problems, give each other feedback and, of course, they are also educated”, explains the deputy mayor of Ostrava-Poruba, Martin Tomášek, how an isolated community of individual schools builds a community that transmits the experience. takes place in collaboration with the local clinic for clinical psychology and its expert Petr Nilius.

“We must methodically accompany workplaces with educational guidance. Many school psychologists encounter a specific diagnosis only once in their lifetime, such as schizophrenia in one of the children. As an outpatient clinic for clinical psychology, we therefore provide them with support so that they can be sure that the steps they are taking are the right ones,” explains clinical psychologist Nilius, who advises schools on the mental health of students.

Money for psychologists will be, but not enough

The Ministry of Education should help schools at least with funding from May. Principals of schools with more than 180 pupils were promised funds to employ their own school psychologist or specialist pedagogue. Smaller schools would then share the position through the locally relevant educational and psychological counseling centre.

However, the proposed system is not very suitable for Ostrava. Funding is set at a lower level than local schools are used to. 25 schools out of 55 have a school psychologist, for example in Ostrava-Poruba, he is supplemented by a specialist pedagogue and sometimes a social pedagogue at the school counseling centre. However, as soon as funding for the Jan Amos Komenský operational program kicks in and all other European resources dry up, local schools will be offended.

New funding for school psychologists or special educators

Number of pupils in ordinary primary school Amount of work provided
20 – 99 0.2
100 – 179 0.4
180 – 299 0.5
300 – 399 0.8
400 – 749 1.0
750 – 999 2.0
1,000 and over 2.5

In cases where schools with 400 or more pupils simultaneously accommodate more than 12% of pupils with special educational needs, the work of the school’s specialist pedagogue will increase by 0.1 to 0.4 (depending on the share).

Here is an example: one of the schools in Ostrava already employs both a school psychologist and a specialist pedagogue for its 548 full-time pupils. However, she would only be entitled to one full-time position. She would have to halve the workload of the two workers, choose only one, or cover the money for a support position of hers, because the state contribution would not be enough for her current needs.

“It seems very up-to-date and small schools in more remote areas can really improve. But we will be beaten with the new system. Insufficient allocation of support posts will lead to their limitation. first rely on the models and only then ask for new funds, so there will be a lack of funding, which we can cover, but I don’t know how small municipalities, for example, are going to do it,” describes Hoffmannová.

According to the deputy mayor of Ostrava, the Ministry of Education should double the number of jobs for schools. However, the Office is counting on the scheme already proposed. According to him, the teaching staff should be expanded by 2,100 school psychologists and specialized educators. Expenditure is expected to be around 1.6 billion crowns.

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