The devastating global pandemic left the whole of the UK confined to their homes for the better part of two years, fearful to step outside. Although we are now all relieved at the chance of normality, it’s easy to forget the lasting impact lockdown has had, particularly on the wellbeing of those whose developmental stages were spent locked inside.
In order to truly recover as a society, it is important to address the challenges many young people still face today, being welcomed back into the real world.
The lasting damage to our education
The isolation experienced during lockdown left the vast majority of children and young people unable to be taught in a classroom environment. Instead, they spent their school days at home, joining virtual learning sessions and being set work online.
As you can imagine, this did not have the same impact that an in-person learning environment can have, leaving students struggling with their education and feelings of isolation.
During my experience with virtual learning, I found that when I returned to school in year 11, myself and many of my peers had different gaps in our knowledge, so learning just one curriculum and exam content for our upcoming GCSEs was a struggle for both teachers and students. I found that without an understanding of schoolbooks and science practicals, exam content was near impossible to comprehend, and motivation and confidence steadily declined among my classmates.
One of the biggest struggles was having a universal syllabus regardless of societal or financial differences in schools. For instance, disadvantaged areas across the UK had schools that lacked the resources and equipment to conduct online learning, such as laptops and even teachers. This meant that many young people were at a disadvantage in their learning opportunities.
These issues served to widen the educational disparity among areas of the UK and resulted in a severe education crisis reflected in the need for lower grade boundaries and help sheets during exams.
The impact on the mental wellbeing of young people
Due to the harsh isolation of lockdown, there has been a large spike in mental health issues across the whole country - from the youngest to the eldest in society.
However, the mental wellbeing of young people is a topic often ignored or even trivialised due to the ‘assumed resilience’ of the younger generation.
A phrase I’m sure you’ve heard before, one annoyingly familiar to the majority of teens, is the joke of how kids these days are ‘glued to their phones’. Whilst admittedly, there is a lot of truth in that statement, it is important to remember that for close to two years, our phones were our only connection to the outside world.
The impact of this is still clear to see today, with a lot of young people having trouble communicating and interacting with people outside of their old ‘social bubble,’ suffering from the highest levels of social anxiety observed in decades.
Re-entering into school life was a bit of a cultural shock, seeing many of my once loud and confident friends now quiet and reserved students, and reconnecting with an environment we once knew was a challenge for students and teachers to navigate.
This crisis of anxiety and a reliance on a virtual world, has affected the whole younger generation; from those just beginning secondary school to those leaving study to enter the working world.
To fully overcome the challenges of lockdown and recover as a society, it is important that moving forward we acknowledge our generational differences and the varying impact of the pandemic on different social groups; being sure to offer help, support and most importantly understanding to those who are still struggling today.