Trustees with the Toronto District School Board have approved a $5.9 million plan to support the mental health and well-being of students amid the ongoing pandemic.
During their Special Board Meeting this evening, Trustees unanimously approved the hiring of an additional 106 staff members following the release of a report earlier this week that highlighted the impact of the pandemic on student mental health and well-being. While there have been improvements over last year, a recent secondary student survey found that:
Five out of ten students have reported feeling worried or nervous all the time or often (6/10 in January 2021)
Six out of ten students reported feeling under a lot of stress or pressure all the time or often (7/10 in January 2021)
Four out of ten students learning in-person reported feeling happy all the time or often, while three out of ten students learning virtually felt the same (3/10 in January 2021).
Students in higher grades were more likely to report feeling nervous, worried or stressed, and less likely to report feeling happy.
The survey also found that that 92% of students know how to connect with their teacher if they need to, while 90% of students say their teachers provide extra help if they ask them.
As part of this assessment of the impact of the pandemic, staff also consulted with schools on a range of different issues including student safety. While suspensions are down overall, schools flagged a noticeable increase in conflicts between students in Kindergarten to Grade 12.
As a result of these findings, the TDSB, as part of its COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Plan, will be proceeding with hiring for the following 106 positions:
35 Child and Youth Workers
15 Itinerant Child and Youth Counsellors
16 Social Workers (10 to fill in for those on short term medical leave, 6 new positions)
40 additional School Based Safety Monitors
While this specific approval is for the 2021-2022 school year, the board is committed to continuing these additional supports for the 2022-2023 school year at which point, the staffing complement would be reassessed.
Comparing September and October 2020 with September and October 2021, both school years during the pandemic, there has been a: 86% increase in referrals for Social Work support, 62% increase in referrals to Attendance Counselors and 14% increase in the hours spent on consultations.
“This is one of the largest increases in funding for mental health and well-being at the TDSB in years. Now, more than ever, our students need additional supports as we continue to move through the pandemic.”
- Alexander Brown, Chair, TDSB
“The pandemic has continued to impact many students’ mental health and well-being. We are responding to our students’ needs by increasing the number of caring and qualified mental health staff working with students in schools. The additional staff are an investment in improving our students’ well-being, academic achievement, and engagement in school.”
- Colleen Russell-Rawlins, Director of Education, TDSB