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“Why we must prioritise children’s mental health”

“Why we must prioritise children’s mental health”

Denise Hutton-Gosney, MD and founder of Razzamataz outlines the importance of preserving children's mental health in these unprecedented times

As increased measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 have been revealed in the UK, experts warn that Britain’s children and young people had missed out on crucial social interactions due to lockdown, at the expense of their mental health and education.

Professor Tamsin Ford, a child and adolescent psychiatry expert at the University of Cambridge, warned of a spike in mental health problems in young people during lockdown. She said this group was paying the ‘greatest price’ for lockdown measures, despite being least at risk from the disease.

Experts have said that schools must stay open because when we think about what’s important to adolescents and young people, it is peer interaction and that’s really essential for their mental health.

Razzamataz Theatre Schools welcomes the news that classes can continue to operate around the UK. Of course, the franchise network is closely following government guidelines and has been communicating to parents and guardians all the new changes, including the ‘rule of six’ to ensure that no one congregates or socialises outside of the classroom and the wearing of face coverings where applicable.

“We understand from our network of thousands of children and teenagers how important it has been for them to return to doing what they love at Razzamataz,” says Denise Hutton-Gosney, MD and founder of Razzamataz. “Participating in performing arts gives many young people the chance to make sense of the world so if you take that away, it is no surprise that many are struggling.”

Rachel Ward, a parent at Razzamataz Sutton Coldfield speaks for many when describing her daughter’s experience of returning to class: “She came bounding out of class on cloud nine. We are so pleased to be back and seeing all the children have some fun thanks to you all.”

Although there have been papers on mental health in response to COVID-19, few studies have been included as sufficiently rigorous. Those in students suggest an increase in depression and anxiety and a study published in The Lancet in July found reports of mental health problems for those aged 16 to 34 had risen twice as fast by the end of April, compared to those aged 55 and over.

“As a network, we made the decision early on that we would do all we could to protect our students’ mental health while we were in lockdown,” adds Denise. “Our franchisees hosted Kitchen Discos, Zoom Night’s In, Storytime and gave so many opportunities for the children to connect with their teachers and friends. We also brought in mental health professionals to ensure that every principal and teacher understood how to manage the reopening process in a way that was safe but also fun and exciting for the children.”

One of the many benefits in being part of a franchise, is the support that the head office provides. This has always been crucial to the success of individual business owners, but during these uncertain times, it has saved many people from losing everything. “I truly believe that without the support of the head office, when COVID-19 hit, I would have closed down because I would have just been overwhelmed with everything that we had to do,” says Zoe McKibbin, multiple franchise owner with Razzamataz Theatre Schools. “I have friends who run their own independent theatre or dance schools and they felt really lost during COVID-19. The benefits of being part of the Razzamataz franchise has really shone through during the last six months. They give you the information in really simple, digestible formats and they never overwhelm you.”

During the lockdown period, Razzamataz welcomed five new franchisees and are currently looking to launch more theatre schools across the UK and overseas.

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