Many primary school pupils had little to no contact with their friends during the five-month period before schools fully reopened, a Government report suggests.
There is evidence that children and young people’s wellbeing may have decreased slightly this year – particularly in relation to their life satisfaction.
The findings come in the annual State of the Nation report, published by the Department for Education (DfE), which looks at how happy young people are with their lives amid the pandemic.
It says that around a half to two-thirds of primary aged children had “little to no contact” with friends from late March – when schools closed – to August, which varied over time, with only a third to a half having regular contact.
The return to school has the potential to reverse some declines in children’s wellbeing, addressing their “worries about missing school and being isolated from their friends”, the report notes.
It suggests that mental health difficulties have increased for some school-aged children over the months of the pandemic, and a rise in psychological distress has been found in older youngsters.
The majority of young people were fairly physically active between April and July, although the proportion achieving the recommended 60 minutes a day may have reduced, the study suggests.
But the report concludes that the findings show a “positive picture” of the experiences of most children and young people during the time period given the unprecedented challenges faced.
Vicky Ford, children and families minister, said: “There is no denying that this pandemic has been a difficult experience for parents and children alike and I applaud the amazing resilience of our young people.”
She added: “Getting all children back into the classroom from September was our national priority because we know that is the best place for their mental health and wellbeing.
“Many still need support and this report is part of making sure that the investment we’re making helps those who need it the most.”
Nadine Dorries, minister for mental health and suicide prevention, said: “This global pandemic has brought challenges, disruption and uncertainty to many lives and has impacted not only our physical health, but our mental health and wellbeing too.
“Despite these additional pressures, children and young people across this country have shown huge resilience in the face of change. The results of this report are testament to the impact that government funding and NHS support can have on our mental health.”