Half term this week

Many parents are struggling with how to manage their children and young people, now that it’s half term. For some suggestions, see the BBC website – which advises that children have had enough of adults telling them what to do for the moment! Stay Active, escape in a book, relax the rules on screen time, and get creative, are their top tips.

Many organisations locally and further afield have been producing activities and resources for children and young people – we’ve not found a comprehensive list, so use Google. (Or investigate Newquay ZooPlymouth Marine AquariumLife Science Centre, NewcastleNHS’s Change for Life activitiesThe Best Ideas For KidsBritish Science AssociationCornwall Libraries ServiceJames Dyson Foundation.)

Other suggestions include #DreamBigAtHome, looking at activities connected environmental and social change.

Please ensure that you, and those you work with, are still following the guidance around not travelling far from home.

Returning to school – and catching up

The Government is suggesting that children and young people may be returning to school from 8 March, and an official ‘roadmap’ announcement expected on 22 Monday, the future plans are still looking uncertain, and depend heavily on infection rates.

Sir Kevan Collins has been appointed as Education Recovery Commissioner, to lead work to ensure children and young people can recover learning lost due to the pandemic. Sir Kevan has worked in education for over 30 years, as a teacher, a Director of Children’s Services and most recently as Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation.

His role will include working with government to deliver measures that will support children who have missed out on face-to-face education due to extended school closures.

This will include addressing factors such as curriculum content and quantity of teaching time in the coming months, to ensure the impact the pandemic has had on learning is addressed as quickly and comprehensively as possible.

£300m of new money is to be given to schools to help fund a catch-up programme over the coming year, adding to last year’s £1bn Covid Catch Up Fund, and there has been mention of summer schools.

A report by Juniper Education examining teacher assessment data from 6,000 primary schools has concluded that Year 1 pupils experienced the greatest drop in their learning during the pandemic. Younger children took longer to catch up when they returned to in-person teaching in September 2020. You can read the report on the Juniper website.

Youth Services in Cornwall

Cornwall Council has announced that young people’s support services in Cornwall will be being provided by Action for Children, including young people aged 11-19, and up to 25 with SEND.

This service will help young people by:

  • Providing young people with the skills needed to learn about themselves and their strengths and assets, alongside learning about others and society.
  • Engaging young people in positive activities and networks.
  • Helping young people to understand their rights and develop their own voice, influence and place in society.
  • Providing opportunities for young people to acquire and develop practical and technical skills

The service will also support the development of the Youth Parliament in Cornwall. 

Action for Children is partnering with The Dreadnought Centre, Silver Cloud and Exeter University to deliver the services for young people.   

You can read the full council press release on their website.

The impact of Covid-19 on young people’s mental health

The landscape of digital mental health services has changed considerably since the outbreak of Covid-19. Lockdown has created new challenges for charities, whilst changes that were already starting to affect the digital mental health sector before the pandemic have been magnified.

In a new report by NPC, you can read their key findings around young people’s mental health, and how charities are adapting, as well as NPC’s recommendations to funders about how to tackle the new circumstances we find ourselves in.

Their headlines around young people’s mental health are:

  • The biggest increases in need from young people were related to anxiety and depression. Young people are fearful of the future, financial pressures, and prevailing uncertainty. One charity we spoke to said that the young people they supported were experiencing ‘skin hunger’, yearning for the physical contact (e.g. hugs) they used to have with others.
  • School leavers and new graduates are pessimistic about getting a job in a Covid world or post-Covid world. They fear missing out on educational and professional opportunities.
  • With schools shut, children have lost the coping mechanisms—private conversations with friends, sports and other hobbies, access to mental health support at school, etc.—that might have helped them maintain their emotional wellbeing and reduce anxiety. They might not even have realised that their peers were their support network until they were gone.
  • Charities are seeing more calls relating to familial conflict; tensions rise when everyone is confined together. Children are more exposed to family challenges, such as money troubles, and are increasingly expressing concern for their parents and other family members.
  • The promise of making unique and lifelong friendships has been taken from those who were excited about university. Students feel dejected by missing out on the promised university experience that they have worked hard for.
  • As the vaccine is rolled out, new anxieties are likely to emerge around the safety of re-entering spaces that have been ‘off limits’. Having spent months being told not to go out, training oneself to feel safe may be a challenge.