Education officials urged to prioritize social interaction after Welsh youngsters had their say


They may be considered the least vulnerable to the transmission and negative health effects of Covid-19, but pandemic restrictions have disrupted young people’s education, physical activity and socialization opportunities.

The extent of the impact on their wellbeing was influenced by gender, ethnicity and deprivation, according to a new study that probed the experiences of young people.

The information was gathered by population science researchers at Swansea University over five months from September 2020, a period that included school closures.

They set out to explore predictors of well-being in children and young people during Covid-19 to provide recommendations ranging from primary school to higher education. This is particularly relevant as schools return and lockdown is eased.

Younger children expressed their need to play and see friends while older children and young people asked for more support in the face of anxiety and educational pressures.

Data collection was facilitated by the HAPPEN network using the HAPPEN At Home survey and the Covid & Young People survey conducted by researchers from the National Center for Research on Population Health and Well-Being.

Both surveys captured typical health behaviors of children and young people aged 8 to 25. The combined surveys received a total of 6,291 responses from 81 educational establishments across Wales, including primary and secondary schools as well as grammar schools, colleges and universities.

The results showed that well-being was highest among primary school students and boys, and lowest among those attending secondary school, girls, and those who preferred not to give sex.

The team’s findings are currently being reviewed and have been published as a preprint on MedRxiv, a site used by researchers to share new findings on topical issues before they are reviewed by peer reviewers. peers for publication in a journal. (*more information below).

Among elementary school students, higher levels of wellbeing were reported by those who played with friends, lived in areas of low deprivation, and slept more. Among secondary school children, girls and students of mixed ethnicity reported higher levels of anxiety.

Children said they would like to be able to play more with their friends, illustrating why protecting play, socializing and opportunities to be active is paramount to avoiding deepening inequalities and ensuring wellbeing remains a priority.

Dr Michaela James, of the National Center for Population Health & Wellbeing Research, said: “It is important that educational institutions recognize the importance of the well-being of their students and prioritize their wants and needs rather than focusing on ‘catch-up’ education and the pressure of Evaluation.

“It’s clear that young people want to be with their friends, to play and be active, with better access to mental health support in the future and we need to protect those opportunities.”

For older children, increased mental health support – due to anxiety and pressure to reach when learning online – is needed.

The team said it was clear that online learning was a cause of anxiety for secondary students, so the return to school must ensure a smooth transition to face-to-face teaching. faced with the need to remove the pressure exerted on the evaluations and the success and to privilege the well-being and the accompaniment of the prospects.

Among the responses reported were:

The exam situation is very stressful for everyone at the moment, lack of clarity and answers…

Online work is not as effective as in-person learning

I find it very difficult to learn from a distance.

The team believe that this identification and support could be invaluable in preventing long-term consequences for children and young people, as well as identifying recommendations that can be used given any future lockdowns.

Dr James added: “As school children return to class, it is important that well-being is a priority and that we know how best to meet the needs of young people at different ages.

*This study is a pre-print and is a preliminary working report that has not yet been certified by peer review. A preprint should not be relied upon to guide clinical practice or health-related behaviors and should not be reported in the media as established information.

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