Charlotte O’Halloran, Participation Project Assistant at the Council for Disabled Children, has been coordinating a series of conversations with children and young people about their experiences of the pandemic. Here she summarises their experiences, and their thoughts on returning to school after what has been, for many, a considerable break.
Children and young people have faced unprecedented changes to their childhoods and futures due to COVID19. One part of this disruption is their schooling, and the loss of the support and socialisation that comes with being at school. Here, children and young people share their experiences of not being at school and consider what schools can do to support them when they return to education settings in September.
Schools are not just places of learning for children and young people but also where they create friendships and interact socially with others of their age. Young people reported ‘I miss my friends’ and they ‘missed seeing people in person and giving them hugs and laughing together’.
Being around others their age is not only beneficial for the development of friendships but also their learning. Young people missed ‘the atmosphere of sitting in a class’, ‘the group learning’ and ‘learning from my friends face-to-face’. Working alone at home hindered this learning as ‘subjects are all very reliant on discussion and I use a lot of the discussion time to help clarify ideas and learn further, so without it I just don't feel like I'm progressing’.
Support from schools in lockdown
The progression of pupils’ learning relies largely on the level of support they receive from their school, yet young people have experienced different levels of help in lockdown. A young person explained ‘my tutor usually sits down with me and we discuss each task in a lot of detail before I actually start’. Another highlighted ‘there has been a good amount of communication and support between the school and myself’.
However for others, ‘the teachers of our subjects are very good, but the college itself is not working with us’.
One young person highlighted that:
‘Our college has given us very little news and support emotionally, the last email I got from the Principal was last half term just saying I would be sent a survey. I still haven't had this survey’.
Others explained that ‘every week we get new school work but it’s just some worksheets. We might get a recorded video message but I have only had one from my teacher’. A young person who was struggling said, ‘I’m worried and easily distracted at home’. Some have had little or no communication from their school: ‘no one has been in contact with me’.
This lack of communication from schools has put a strain on children and young people’s experiences in lockdown. They mentioned, ‘I would’ve liked communication, to find out how I am getting on!’ Another young person explained, ‘I’ve spent a lot more time online – I just feel it’s been for nothing and my future still remains uncertain’.
Young people feel not only left in the dark about their progress but also excluded from decision making. They stated that ‘young people's voices have been pushed aside and not given an opportunity to speak’. A young person explained. ‘I honestly am worried with the lack of young people being involved in discussions on schools returning’.
Beyond educational support
Mental health and pastoral support are invaluable to young people over the summer holidays and when returning to school. A young person explained, ‘I’d love my school to consider how we’ll need extra support both academically and mentally…we need to be reassured that it is ok if we weren’t as productive as we could have been’. Others reiterated the value of having ‘more mental health support available’ and to ‘have a number to be able to text for support mental-health-wise rather than call if needed’.
Additionally, young people explained they would need support after being isolated as, ‘people may be nervous about being in an environment with more people and to understand that people may struggle with the socialisation at first’. Young people are not only anxious about returning to school but also how they get to school. One explained they’d like their school to have ‘thought over travelling…it’d be a huge issue with public transport’.
Lastly, having time outside was another suggestion by young people. They requested that there should be ‘more mental health support, more time outside’. Young people highlighted ‘spending more time outside would be a good improvement’ and ‘I think we need to do more active activities’.
It is evident that young people are concerned about their emotional well-being, and supporting the whole school’s mental health is central to pupils’ readjustment to school when they return in September.
About this blog
Living Assessments is a five–year research project on children’s health and social care funded by the Wellcome Trust in a partnership between NCB, University of Cambridge and University of Kent. The Living Assessments project supported the development of this blog.
The John Ellerman Foundation supports organisations to create positive change, allowing organisations to come together to tackle disadvantage, divisions and inequality. The John Ellerman Foundation supported the development of this blog.