To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the effect on children's socialisation of their social contact moving online as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.
2 February 2021
We know that the COVID-19 outbreak and the associated measures and restrictions, such as social distancing and school closures, is having a range of impacts on the lives of children and young people. We are working across government to understand the data and evidence as it emerges; this includes a summary of published sources in the Public Health England Mental Health and Wellbeing Surveillance report children and young people chapter: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-mental-health-and-wellbeing-surveillance-report/7-children-and-young-people.
We know that receiving face-to-face education is best for children’s and young people’s mental wellbeing and for their educational achievement. We have made sure that schools have the flexibility to offer a place in school as a vulnerable child to any pupils for whom being in school will help them manage their mental health or to access support more easily. Schools will continue to offer pastoral support, as well as relationships, sex and health education (RHSE) as part of the curriculum, to pupils working remotely at home.
The RHSE curriculum covers relevant issues such as mental wellbeing, friendships, Internet safety and harms, online relationships and online media. The department has developed an online service featuring innovative training materials and an implementation guide. This support will cover all of the teaching requirements in the statutory guidance and will be inclusive of all pupils. The materials are available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/teaching-about-relationships-sex-and-health.
We are supporting schools to offer pastoral support through the £8 million Wellbeing for Education Return scheme. The scheme funds trained local experts to provide additional advice and resources for schools and further education providers to help support the resilience, wellbeing and recovery of pupils, students, parents, carers and staff in light of the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown. The scheme will give staff the confidence to support their own colleagues as well as pupils and students and pupils’ parents and carers, and to know how and where to access appropriate specialist support where needed.
The government is also making sure that children, young people and families have advice directly about dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak and staying safe online. Public Health England has published guidance for parents which includes signposting to further support such as the Every Mind Matters website: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-supporting-children-and-young-peoples-mental-health-and-wellbeing.
We have developed guidance for parents and carers which has been published on GOV.UK to signpost them to trusted resources and advice on keeping children safe online. The guidance also points to specific routes of support regarding particular online harms which may be of concern: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-keeping-children-safe-online/coronavirus-covid-19-support-for-parents-and-carers-to-keep-children-safe-online.