New report reveals scale of children’s suffering during the pandemic

Research carried out by The Children’s Alliance details the negative impact on children’s physical and mental health during a ‘frightening time’

Children faced “chaotic” online classes and difficulty accessing support from their teachers during Covid-19 restrictions while those experiencing poverty reported little or no engagement with online learning, a new report has found.

The research carried out by The Children’s Alliance involved interviews with 50 children and young people as well as 13 officials who played a key part in decision-making during the pandemic.

Although revelling in being off school initially, being stuck at home quickly became boring with participants missing their friends while a lack of access to sports and hobbies negatively impacted their physical and mental health.

Lockdowns led to an increase in time spent online as well as feelings of boredom, sadness, annoyance, and anxiety with participants recalling the pandemic as a worrying and frightening time.


This was particularly the case for those who were already experiencing anxiety and depression.

All participants expressed difficulty with homeschooling during school closures, including difficulty in getting help and support from their teacher and using technology to learn.

One boy aged 11 described online classes as “chaotic” while another said he and his classmates “fell behind”.

“You weren’t really learning anything cause half the people turned off their camera and went off and did something else while they were on the Zoom call,” said one 11-year-old girl.

Traveller children and children experiencing poverty and educational disadvantage experienced greater difficulty engaging with online learning.

These children shared that they did not engage with homeschooling at all, or at best in a minimal way as they did not know what to do or if they needed help they had no one to ask.

They also cited a lack of access to the schoolwork online at times while those who did participate in online learning felt they were falling behind with their schoolwork during the pandemic.

The research participants who required health or disability services identified many disruptions to the services they needed due to Covid-19 restrictions, with some sharing the view that if they had the power to do so they would have prioritised decisions concerning access to healthcare.

Tanya Ward, chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said perspectives shared present a clear image of “just how vast the impacts were on young people during this time”.

Ms Ward added that the onset of the pandemic was an “unprecedented challenge for our political leaders” who had to direct policy and develop solutions in the face of great uncertainty.

“However, when these decisions were being made, it became increasingly challenging to balance the best interests of children and young people, and ultimately, they fell down the pecking order of priorities,” she said.

In the event of future crises, the report recommends decision-making informed by research or consultations on how they might impact children’s rights.

It also recommends that the closure of schools should be a last resort which should be accompanied by a reopening strategy to open them as quickly and safely as possible.

It highlighted the need for improved support and monitoring of engagement and progress in the event of homeschooling.

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