Coronavirus 'Freedom Day' report: towards a better, kinder world?

Coronavirus 'Freedom Day' report: towards a better, kinder world?

SUMMARY: We've had a first look at some coronavirus-related data.  We found some expected changes (handwashing is up, and wellbeing down), much evidence that some youngsters are really struggling (feeling unsafe at home, worrying about money and relationships), but that young people's major worry is about school work, that very many youngsters have felt generally quite happy throughout (about 40%) and many report better or closer relationships with family and friends.  Young people's most common hope for life after coronavirus is that we treat each other better.

We've been relatively quiet during the COVID-19 epidemic, as schools have either been closed or have had other priorities than doing questionnaires.

But some authorities and some schools have persisted, as what could be a more important time to check in on what young people are doing and feeling?

We have looked at any changes we can see among the questions we have asked for a long while, and collected some information about the impact of coronavirus restrictions.  The figures below are not from our very large aggregate samples, but from single areas of the country -- which may or may not be representative.

Handwashing is up

Washing hands after visiting toilet 'always'

  2018 2020
KS1 (6-7yo) 74% 85%
KS2 (10-11yo) 69% 93%

One local authority survey, N > 10,000

Activity is down

Volunteering outside school in the last 6 months

  2018 2020
KS3/4 (12-15yo) 51% 36%

One local authority survey, N > 7,000

Mean Wellbeing scores are down

Not dramatically but significantly

  2018 2020
SCWBS KS2 (10-11yo) 46% 44%
SWEMWBS KS3/4 (12-15yo) 23% 22%

One local authority survey, N > 20,000

COVID precautions

Have you been taking care to look after yourself and others in the following ways since coronavirus? - "Always or
nearly always"

  Year 8 Year 9 Year 10 Year 11
Following national advice about hands/face/space 34% 31% 31% 38%
Stay in touch/talking with friends and family (e.g. phone/social media) 41% 39% 38% 37%
Keeping yourself busy (e.g. learning a new skill/online learning, hobbies) 25% 21% 20% 20%
Doing more to help at home 14% 11% 13% 12%
Helping or volunteering outside the home 4% 4% 5% 5%
Exercising enough to stay healthy 25% 23% 21% 19%
Talking about any worries that might be building up 7% 5% 5% 6%
Getting enough sleep (at least 8 hours) 18% 14% 11% 10%
Taking some time to relax (reading, watching films/series, meditation, mindfulness) 27% 25% 23% 25%
Eating well (e.g. 5-a-day etc.) 22% 20% 16% 13%
Drinking enough water/liquid (2l each day) 27% 26% 22% 21%
Got into new activities or interests 14% 11% 10% 13%

One local authority survey, N > 4,000

There are plenty of precautions and care for self and others being adopted, and probably everyone is doing some things some of the time, but no one thing is practised faithfully by a majority of youngsters.

COVID worries

How much do you worry about the issues listed below? % quite a lot or a lot

  Year 8 Year 9 Year 10 Year 11
How much the virus is spreading 22% 20% 17% 14%
Understanding the current rules/ guidance about infection control 27% 22% 20% 21%
Having enough money in my family 26% 25% 23% 21%
The economy in general (jobs, long-term impacts on businesses, housing) 15% 14% 17% 13%
Having enough food 22% 17% 15% 13%
You being lonely or not getting help because of distancing/isolation 23% 21% 25% 20%
People being lonely or not getting help because of distancing/isolation 22% 20% 26% 23%
School work 42% 39% 46% 43%
Parents worry about school work 26% 23% 29% 23%
Mixing with people at school again 24% 20% 18% 16%
Starting up activities again 18% 16% 16% 14%

One local authority survey, N > 4,000

Young people's major concern is school work and their parents' own anxiety about school work, followed by loneliness, money, and following the guidance.

Families: a mixed picture

Do you agree or disagree with the following statements about life during coronavirus? - "Agree/Strongly agree"

  Year 8 Year 9 Year 10 Year 11
It has improved my relationship with my family 43% 45% 43% 42%
I have struggled to maintain my friendships 26% 25% 28% 27%
It has improved my community (e.g. people are working together) 20% 19% 18% 19%
I have found easy ways of communicating with people (e.g. via Internet) 65% 65% 61% 56%
I have felt less safe within my home because of increased family tensions 11% 12% 12% 12%
I have struggled to maintain my relationships with family who I don't live with 25% 25% 31% 29%
I have felt generally quite positive/happy 40% 41% 34% 35%
I have struggled to maintain my relationships with family I live with 15% 14% 15% 14%
I have felt closer to my friends 42% 44% 41% 36%
I have made new friends 52% 52% 49% 43%
Total Sample (Count) 1447 1640 1223 408

While many young people have found things very tough this last year or so (11-12% feeling unsafe tension at home, 14-15% struggled to maintaining relationships at home), there is quite a lot of good news here too -- some reporting feeling closer to friends (36-44%) and improved relationships with family (42-45%), many were generally quite positive (34-41%). 

We know poverty and being a member of an ethnic minority are associated with increased risk of serious disease and death from COVID-19.   Like so many things in life, the non-medical effects of coronavirus and lockdown may also have been very uneven, with families who were doing well before usually being able to ride the storm, while families who were finding life hard before may have been affected more and had fewer resources to respond.

The best of the epidemic?

We asked:

What are three good things, or things you have enjoyed most about life, since coronavirus?

Pupils most often mentioned family, friends, having more time to do things while schools were closed, and finding new activities or hobbies.  Netflix also got some mentions.

One local authority survey, N =500

The worst?

What are three things you would like to change about life since coronavirus?

Pupils overwhelmingly wanted to see their friends more.

Building back better?

We asked:

Many people are hoping that life after coronavirus will be different and better. 
What three changes would you like to see in life, society, the world?

Responses were varied, but included reference to school, the NHS, pollution, gender, football and animals.  The single most common class of responses was:

Social issues - respect or understand each other/ be nice to each other/ less hate or ignorance/ more open-minded