A recent NHS children’s mental health survey* has revealed frightening increases in probable mental health disorders: 

  • The overall rate of probable mental health disorders for seven to 16-year-olds is 1 in 6 children, and the rates for 17 to 19-year-olds are 1 in 4
  • Those with probable disorders are three times more likely to be absent for 15 days than their counterparts without a disorder
  • Those with probable disorders enjoyed learning much less (51.5 per cent compared to 73.1 per cent) 
  • Only 57 per cent felt comfortable talking to adults about their mental health and 61 per cent agreed the support offered was helpful

And yet, the system has been designed for, and is expecting, these students to sit in classrooms; to produce homework; to perform in exams; to deliver results and fulfil their potential. Talk about trying to put a square peg in round hole. 

For these students, a good result can be making it through the school gates. Being in a classroom could be more about learning how to control anxiety than learning about mitosis. So how can we start to help to solve the problems so clearly evident in our schools?

At GLUU, we feel that the only way is to add new digital capacity into the system. We cannot ask our teachers to do more but rather must look at innovative new ways to find them more time, and in parallel allow pupils access to a service which is relevant and delivered on their terms. We have therefore piloted and evidenced over the last year a new solution we call askOLA.

askOLA adds capacity to the education system by supporting the whole child. Each OLA (Online Learning Assistant) is a subject specialist who can support classroom learning – just like a Teaching Assistant – but do so online, 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. In short, on-demand support when it is needed most. OLAs also, if they spot a deeper concern, can signpost students to qualified support via Kooth, the UK’s most trusted provider of mental health support, without the child leaving the safeguarded platform.  

There’s no camera, no microphone and no pressure, so the students who may not be able to speak up in class, or at home, feel safe in the knowledge that they can do so freely and anonymously. Not only that, the askOLA Student Zone library holds articles and suggestions for coping with all manner of wellbeing concerns – from sleep problems to friendships to bullying. 

In a nutshell, askOLA provides the reassurance and support students desperately need – in and out of school hours. It’s an online, on-demand learning and wellbeing support platform that is changing the lives of our teens and their teachers. 

The correlation between wellbeing and attainment is proven and powerful. This isn’t news to any teacher at the chalkface, and here at GLUU we’ve been banging the drum for increased support for youngsters for years, and we will continue to bang the drum as loudly as possible for as long as it takes.

*Rate of mental disorders among 17 to 19 year olds increased in 2022, new report shows – NHS Digital


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