Concerns for pupils’ wellbeing over school Covid measures

COVID measures in schools may have caused some children mental health issues, says Guernsey’s Director of Education.

Nick Hynes, Director of Education. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 30807456)
Nick Hynes, Director of Education. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 30807456)

Various mitigations were introduced in schools over the last two years including classroom bubbles, face coverings and staggered pick up times.

Nick Hynes said he understood that in some cases, children’s wellbeing may have suffered as a result.

‘I know there were some parents who worried about the introduction of face coverings and said that actually the introduction of face coverings was causing their children mental health and wellbeing issues. I accept that in some cases that might have been the case. And by the same token I had parents and members of the community writing to me to say you need to have more mitigations in place because they were really worried and scared.’

During the most recent wave, more than 600 people signed a petition to remove all measures from schools amid concerns about mental health issues and anxiety.

But Mr Hynes said Education had tried to balance the situation as best it could.

‘The whole time has been trying to create a balancing act – trying to make sure that all of our schools are operating in the best way possible, without causing so much stress and strain on children, young people and also on the adults and teachers looking after them.’

For the first time in four years, reception-age children experienced a dip in levels of speech and language communication, believed to be due mask wearing.

‘It’s from seeing adults for two years wearing face coverings and not seeing their lips or mouth move and then not replicating that themselves.’

Early years development is as a key part of Education’s Covid ‘Bounce Back Strategy’ which will look at primary phase support for reading and writing and addressing gaps that disadvantaged key stage three students may have.

‘It is looking at how we can support and develop the early years, especially those where we might need to put in some interventions or support.’

In the UK, a study conducted at the end of March revealed that if the pandemic had not happened, 6% fewer adolescents could be experiencing significant depression symptoms.

‘We’re not immune to the difficulties that all education systems have over the world. But I think if we look back in a few years time about how well we did it, there is always things we can learn, there are always things we could have done better or differently, but it is challenging within a community where you are also following sets of guidelines, and we want to support the community in a way which feels safe as well,’ he said.

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