The evidenced harm of lockdown and school closures on children

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Lockdown harm has occurred to children across the world. SAGE advisers reviewed 72 studies from 20 countries and found almost all documented harms to children that occurred during school closures and social lockdown.[1]

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  • Remote learning is at best a “partial substitute for in-class learning.”[2] And that there was a correlation between the amount of time a school was not open to in-person learning and how severe learning losses were during the pandemic.[3]
  • Primary pupils were around 2-3.5 months behind when they returned in March 2021. Socioeconomically disadvantaged children were around a month further behind.[4]
  • The pandemic has now exacerbated the education gap between rich and poor, undoing a significant amount of the progress made in closing it over the last two decades[5]
  • SEN children are around four months behind in their learning – about a month to a month and a half more than mainstream pupils.
  • SEN children who are also disadvantaged are around seven months behind in literacy and eight months behind in behaviours needed for learning. [6]

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  • 46% of children who entered the reception year in 2020 were not ‘school ready’ compared to 35% in 2019.[7] It is expected to be higher in 2021.
  • 5 million* children are at risk of not being able to speak or understand language at an age-appropriate level.[8]
  • 63% of teachers surveyed think children moving to secondary school in September 2021 will struggle more with speaking and understanding than those who moved before the pandemic.[9]

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  • The DfE concluded that the evidence for impacts of school closures on mental health and wellbeing was substantial and consistent, with considerable impacts across the range of emotional, behavioural and restlessness/inattention problems, and overall psychological wellbeing.[10]
  • Emergency referrals for crisis care increased by 62% compared to 2020.[11]
  • 5 million extra children and young people in England could require mental health support because of the pandemic.[12]
  • One in six children reported having a mental health disorder in 2020 compared to one in nine in 2017. [13]

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  • Between 90,000 and 135,000 are missing from school since before the pandemic.[14]
  • The number of known child victims drawn into modern slavery through county lines drug-dealing gangs rose by 57 per cent in the 12 months to March 2021 compared with the previous year, from 953 to 1,492.[15]
  • London is on track to have its highest number of teenage murders since 2008.[16]
  • The Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel received 536 severe incident notifications from local authorities between April 2020 to March 2021, including 223 deaths and 284 instances of serious harm – an increase of 19% from the previous year. A significant number of these were babies.[17]

Directors of Children’s Services have linked the significant increase in social services referrals, domestic abuse and child safeguarding concerns to the pandemic restrictions and the closure of childcare settings.[18][/gva_block_heading][gva_block_heading align=”align-left” subtitle=”Physical Health”]

  • Lockdown has led to an “explosion” of children with disabling tics disorders, and Tourette’s syndrome, the president of the British Paediatric Neurology Association has said. [19]
  • Home confinement and the increase in screen time appeared to be associated with a substantial myopic shift in children- this was especially true in 6–8-year-olds.[20]
  • Paediatricians reported a significant increase in the late presentation of childhood diseases like diabetes, cancer and sepsis. By August 2020, 9 deaths had been attributed to the late presentation.[21] More children were admitted to intensive care prior to their cancer diagnosis during the pandemic.[22]
  • There has been a significant increase in obesity in primary age children due to lockdown with a quarter leaving in year 6 overweight or obese.[23]