THE shocking damage to the mental health of British kids from the schools lockdown is today revealed by a bombshell investigation.
An exclusive poll for The Sun shows children are more argumentative, miserable, stressed and anxious since schools closed more than three months ago.
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Nearly one in five parents (18 per cent) say being away from class has led to their child feeling down or upset, and 15 per cent say a lack of school has caused their child to be anxious or stressed.
Half report more arguments at home, and a third say their child has been moodier.
Kids feeling suicidal
Calls to charity helplines by youngsters feeling depressed and suicidal have also risen.
And parents put the blame squarely on the Government, with 43 per cent of those polled saying Boris Johnson’s handling of the schools situation during the coronavirus crisis has been “fairly poor” or “very poor”.
Only 28 per cent believe the Prime Minister has done a “good” or “very good” job with schools.
Around 12 per cent of pupils are now back in lessons in England, having gone back under a phased return.
But the Government has u-turned on its pledge to bring all children back into lessons before the start of the summer holidays.
And it’s clear the lengthy absence away from school has had a negative impact.
Children have been trapped at home – some feeling lonely and isolated – while parents are facing their own stresses
Richard Crellin, Policy Manager at The Children’s Society said: “Children’s lives have been turned upside down by coronavirus.
“They have been trapped at home, some feeling lonely and isolated. Parents are facing their own stresses around their jobs, money and caring for loved ones.
“In this pressure cooker situation, emotions run high and some children feel down or worried, and our research shows that arguments with parents harm children’s well-being.”
'My son, 12, games for 7.5 hours a day'
ZOE Hughes, from Exeter, Devon, is frustrated with the amount of time her son, Wyatt, 12, is spending on video games.
The holistic education consultant, 43, said: “Wyatt does his school work in the morning, usually finishing about midday, has lunch then jumps on it from about 2pm until 9.30pm.
"It's a shocking amount of time, I know.
"If school is late sending his work for the day, then he'll watch Anime films on TV first.
"I insist we eat together at least three times a week and we have one evening where he has to spend an hour sitting and chatting with me.
"The rest of the time, it's all games like Fortnite, Minecraft and Skyrim.
"I allow it because it's his hobby and there hasn't been anything else for him to do during lockdown. Plus it's his way of socialising with his friends, which is really important for him.
"As an education consultant and a teacher, I know full well this is too much screen time, but I’m a single parent and I need to work, so what choice do I have?
"When he’s at school, he will play for a few hours in the evening but not every night as he’d rather go to the park or do something else."
Half of children have been going to bed considerably later than usual and more than a third have been getting up considerably later.
A third say being off school has led to more rows between siblings, while nearly half (45 per cent) say having children at home for three months has “increased” or “greatly increased” arguments with their partner.
Youngsters 'grieving' over school
Stressed youngsters have been turning to the NSPCC’s Childline for help with “almost a sense of grief that they’ve lost school,” according to service head Wendy Robinson.
She added: "I think children have been carrying a really heavy burden during this time.
"For some of them, it's hard to imagine it ever getting better. We have calls from young people who are feeling like they want to self-harm or even with suicidal thoughts."
The charity also reports a 32 per cent leap in the number of calls to its helplines about domestic abuse on children, now averaging a record one call an hour.
"We received a call from a young girl who was being abused by her father," said Ms Robinson.
"Usually the girl was at school so she wasn't in that environment but now, stuck at home 24/7, she was being abused more often."
I’m really scared of my dad, especially when he’s been drinking. Sometimes he gets really angry and throws things at my mum. It’s been getting worse since the coronavirus
Another youngster, 15, told Childline: "I’m really scared of my dad, especially when he’s been drinking. Sometimes he gets really angry and throws things at my mum.
"It’s been getting worse since the coronavirus and I worry a lot. I have no idea what to do as I can't escape because of the lockdown."
'We're all fed up of each other'
BUILDER Annaafiz Jamaludin, who lives in Brighton with his wife Lara and their two children Raffi, 9, and Amber, 5, says tensions rise in their home every day.
The 36-year-old said: “My wife is working from home and trying to homeschool both of the kids on her own, while I’m out at work from 8am, often not getting home until 5pm.
“She gets stressed and resentful about having to do all the school work on top of her job and, by the time I get home, everyone is fed up of each other and of being stuck in the house all day.
“I’m exhausted from work and immediately expected to get involved, which leads to a lot of rows that I’m not being helpful enough.
“Often my wife will start an argument with me almost the second I walk in the door because she wants me to take the kids out so she can get some work done in peace.
"We bicker about everything household-related as well, because she feels she does it all when it comes to cooking and cleaning and I don’t pull my weight enough.
“We’d have argued about that before too, but everything is heightened in lockdown.
"The kids usually get on pretty well with each other compared to a lot of siblings, but they’re constantly winding each other up at the moment.
“Amber screams and shrieks in Raffi’s face all the time in frustration at him annoying her, and he gets irritated by her latching on to whatever he is doing – which is mostly playing Roblox online with his friends – and cramping his style.
“Being stuck in the house in all this hot weather has added to everyone’s grumpiness too.
"Everyone is irritable, fed up of each other and constantly staring at screens – which makes my wife shout a lot!”
Kids glued to phones & games
Of the 1,000 parents surveyed in our poll, two thirds say their child has spent more time in front of a screen during lockdown.
The average amount of screen time, excluding school work, is two to three hours.
But just over one in five children aged five to 16 are spending more than FIVE hours a day glued to phones, tablets, laptops, computer games or the TV.
Educational and child psychologist Dr Michele McDowell says parents are reporting children “regressing back to tantrum behaviours”, having “emotional meltdowns” and becoming “clingier.”
She said: "I've spoken with parents who are now faced with young people that are becoming socially anxious and expressing a reluctance about leaving the house.
“I have seen an increase in referrals from parents who are struggling to get their children off games and screens, which is leading to aggressive and violent outbursts".
Forty per cent of the 1,000 parents surveyed believe their child is academically behind where they should be compared to a normal school year.
For those living in deprived areas or with low-income families, the lockdown could be academically catastrophic.
A considerable proportion of children, especially among those on free school meals, have done no work since March
Education expert Murray Morrison says that the gap between poorer children and those more fortunate will have widened considerably – and “it may take an entire generation to see it close back to 2019 levels".
Around 700,000 children in the UK have no computer or tablet on which to access remote learning.
Mr Morrison, founder of the online learning program Tassomai, said: “A considerable proportion of children, especially among those on free school meals, have done no work since March and have had no contact with their teachers.”
'He's cried every day since school closed'
ONE British teaching assistant says she's worried about her seven-year-old son’s anxiety.
The mum, whom we are not naming, said: "He has cried every day since his school closed. Sometimes it’s a little sob, sometimes it’s full-on tears.
“He often says he’s sad because he misses his friends. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. A seven-year-old shouldn’t be so down.
“He has been biting his nails a lot and chewing on his clothes, which he only ever does when he is anxious.
“He’s usually such a mellow, happy child but we’ve had some angry outbursts about school work. He has struggled with the workload and working from home.
"Another two-and-a-half months is going to be tough.”
Children filling in benefit forms
According to former headteacher Leon Hady, some of those youngsters have been acting as “communicators and fixers” for their parents, filling in benefit forms, grocery shopping and “writing letters to stave off eviction.”
"They are being an arm around the shoulder, or someone for mum and dad to talk to," said Mr Hady.
"They are helping to educate other siblings and doing the weekly shop. Some are caring for unwell parents and keeping other siblings safe from alcohol-fuelled rages.
"Some are used to being in these routines and some are doing it for the first time."
Homeschooling has proved problematic for most households.
Only 17 per cent say they have coped well teaching their children.
A quarter of parents say the most difficult aspect has been “getting their child to do any work at all".
Almost the same figure again says they have found the most challenging aspect is getting their child to do their work on schedule.
And one fifth of us say the most difficult part has been juggling homeschooling with our own job.
Lack of motivation & support
Mr Hady added: “Most parents are doing an amazing job but are not qualified educators. This can put a limit on the quality of support they can provide.”
Katie Jones, a Year 9 pupil who is being supported by OnSide’s Wigan Youth Zone in Greater Manchester, said: “I’ve struggled with schoolwork because I find it hard enough being motivated in school sometimes, let alone learning from home.”
Year 10 student Alyssa Kendrick, 15, also from Wigan, said: “I don’t always know what to do at home and I’ve still not done all of it as a result, so I’m worried about getting into trouble.
“It’s just been hard to sit down and actually do the work on my own.”
Calls for summer school
More than half of the parents polled by OnePoll for The Sun would like to see schools open in the summer in some form, with 36 per cent wanting extra classes for all children, and 18 per cent saying extra lessons should be just for those who need it or who live in deprived areas.
The Government has promised all school children will be back in class in September and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is said to be looking at increasing the “bubble” size from its current 15 to 30, allowing more children to be taught in each classroom.
Forty per cent of parents would still like to see all children back in class before the end of this term.
Two thirds of parents surveyed said they feel schools will be just as safe, or more safe – with a focus on handwashing and extra cleaning – in September compared to a normal year.
Mr Crellin said: "When children return to school, support for their well-being must be a top priority.
"But the Government must also use this crisis as an opportunity to turbo-charge mental health services, and put more money back into council children’s services and youth work.
When children return to school, support for their well-being must be a top priority.
"Since 2009, children have been telling us they have been less and less happy. Yet there is still no national measurement of children’s well-being as there is for adults, to guide government on where it needs to make changes.
"This needs to change if we want to help our children emerge from this pandemic without long-term damage to their mental health."
Despite the difficulties faced by most families, having children at home for the last three months has also had some benefits.
More than a third of parents polled say the experience has improved their relationship with their child.
And 61 per cent say they now have a greater appreciation for their child’s teachers.
- The Children’s Society has created a Covid-19 mental health and wellbeing hub, offering advice on looking after yourself at this time. To find out more, visit https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/
- Anyone concerned about a child’s well-being can contact the NSPCC Helpline for advice and support on 0808 800 5000 or via [email protected] Children with any worries can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or www.childline.org.uk.
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