GLASGOW secondary pupils who are “petrified” to go to school full time believe a more blended learning approach is needed to help their mental health.

Teenagers from across the city have come together to raise their concerns about the current attitude to education and the likelihood of Covid-19 spreading throughout schools.

As part of an ongoing series the Glasgow Times will investigate the impact coronavirus has had on adolescent mental health and what support and advice should be made available.

Coronavirus Scotland: The number of pupils missing school in Glasgow

Fifth-year pupil Hayden Atkin says a 50:50 method should be reconsidered.

He said: “I am a very big believer of keeping pupils in schools because of exams but it definitely feels that we should have gone back part time.

“The only reason I am happy to go to school is to see my friends again and be beside them. But I don’t feel safe, I feel scared and petrified to go to school.”

As the pandemic rages on, demand for the mental health counsellor has increased with young people seeking support and advice every day.

Hayden added: “I actually heard from my own pupil support teacher that the school counsellor, who comes to my school once a week, has been asked to come nearly every single day because of the amount of appointments needed.

“The number of young people who have asked to see her has skyrocketed, she actually needs to come in much more because she can’t see everyone in one day. I think there needs to be more support offered.”

Ellie Craig, who is a sixth-year pupil in Glasgow, said she was surprised when she found out schools were going back full time.

She said: “I completely agree about blended learning. We thought we would be coming back part time and all of a sudden it was announced that we would be back full time.

“For people who had vulnerable family members, if you see people in school not caring and not sanitizing their hands or wearing their masks, you know if they gave that to you and you take it home the consequences could be bad.

Glasgow Times: Hayden Atkin and Ellie Craig (right) on a trip to London with their friends before Covid-19Hayden Atkin and Ellie Craig (right) on a trip to London with their friends before Covid-19

“I was really angry when I saw people not caring and not taking precautions. A lot of people in my school just don’t feel safe and the only reason I feel slightly safer than someone else is because I’m doing all advanced highers and those classes are normally smaller and we can socially distanced.

“I’m only in school two full days and two half days. I don’t come in on Wednesdays at all because I do one of my advanced highers at the GCU hub. It’s a completely different environment from school.”

Glasgow City Council has confirmed that every school has robust risk assessments in place which is updated on what they are doing to help mitigate against the risk of the spread of the virus. 

A council spokeswoman said: “It’s totally understandable that young people are feeling anxious and even scared – many people are struggling with the challenges of the pandemic.

“Our school staff are doing a really good job in supporting our children and young people and just being able to be back in some sort of routine following lockdown is having a positive impact.

“But we know that some pupils need some extra interventions to make them feel less worried about the virus and the reassurance that our schools have robust measures in place to help suppress and reduce the risk of the virus.

“Covid-19 is not only about the physical illness but about the mental health impacts and our schools are tailoring their support accordingly to try and intervene at an early stage before things can escalate.

“This includes the use of a digital safe place for young people 16 years and above.

“Togetherall is a service that was bought by education services to offer support 24/7 and in a digital format that’s more attractive to older pupils and moderated by professional clinicians.

“Our schools also offer a range of counselling services that pupils can be referred to. This is obviously a very challenging and worrying time for everyone and the schools are working with families who are particularly anxious to help ease their worries and offer any help that they can.

“The evidence paper published last week by the Scottish Government shows that at 12 November the rate of coronavirus related illness in schools represented about 0.1% of all pupils.

Coronavirus Scotland: Covid-19 school absences in Glasgow hit record high

“Our schools will continue to follow all the current advice and guidance in relation to mask and physical distancing and school staff are doing all that they can to help pupils understand the reasons behind the rules.” 

Joanne Aitken, children and young people development manager at SAMH added: “We know it’s been a really tough time for young people this year. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, services for children and young people were under strain. During these difficult times, it’s important we all look after our mental health and wellbeing.

"While we can’t control many of the challenges around us, there are still things we can all do to protect our mental health. It is important to get some help if you are feeling overwhelmed, in the first instance you can speak to someone you trust who can offer a listening ear. You can also visit for sources of support and information.”