All children have a fundamental right to get an education; the six months children spent out of school this year was the biggest disruption to that right since the second World War. Most children in England were unable to go to school for most, if not all, of lockdown, leading to the loss of roughly 575 million school days between March and the summer holidays.
We wanted to hear directly from children how they’ve found going back to school this September, and the good news is that it has gone extremely well for the vast majority of children. 7 out of 10 told us they were excited to be back at school, and this rose to 8 out of 10 among primary school kids. When asked to pick the words that best describe how they feel about being back in the classroom, 59% chose ‘happy’. As one girl put it, it’s just “being with my friends again and a bit of normality”.
Given the ongoing impact of the virus, some children were still worried about it, but it was still good to see that 71% of children said they feel safe at school and that 9 in 10 felt they understood and could follow the new Covid-19 rules. As one 16 year-old boy said, his school was “doing everything possible to keep us safe”. When asked what they were most worried about, 6 in 10 children mentioned having to be sent home again.
Children also spoke of the impact of lockdown on their schoolwork. One boy said how much easier it was at school to “understand my work and if I’m not sure it’s easy to ask”. Half the children surveyed said they were worried they would struggle to catch up this year, and 1 in 3 wanted more help to catch up.
This research shines a light on children’s own feelings about the impact of lockdown and going back to school. It highlights just how important it is – for children themselves – that schools stay open as far as possible, so that they can carry on learning, catch up on what they’ve missed, spend time with their friends, and enjoy “some sort of normal”.