It seems timely to share a post that child psychology academic Prof Helen Dodd and I wrote for The Conversation in March last year. With many schoolchildren at home once more, millions of parents across the UK are grappling with the added pressure of trying to home-school at the same time as holding everything else together.
“Free play can also help children make sense of things they find hard to understand.” Helen Dodd and Tim Gill
In one sense lockdown may be a little less daunting this time around, in part because of the hope offered by the vaccination programme. That said, many parents will be all too aware of the impact of school closures on their children’s education. They will be desperate to do whatever they can to keep their children from falling further behind.
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As this is a longish post – perhaps a 10-minute read – here are the main takeaways:
- Children are much less likely to become seriously ill from Covid-19 than adults, and appear less likely to become infected.
- Unlike with influenza, it appears that children are not more likely than adults to spread the disease, and may be significantly less likely.
- There are good grounds for thinking that outdoor environments present a low risk of infection compared to indoor ones, especially where the time spent in close proximity to other people is short.
- Pandemic control measures are likely to lead to significant collateral damage to children, with the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children worst affected.
- Government, local authorities and other public agencies should take a balanced approach to supporting children through the pandemic. They should:
- Encourage schools and child care centres to take learning activities outdoors, prioritising play and breaks, and maximize outdoor play time, as they reopen.
- Open all remaining closed parks, review the closure of playgrounds, and take a supportive approach to the oversight of children’s play and socialising in public space.
- Address the circumstances of disadvantaged children as a matter of urgency.
- Prioritise children’s active travel to school, to help reduce peak hours congestion.
- Closely monitor emerging evidence, especially from countries that have relevant experience of relaxing measures.
- Encourage the public to engage with and understand the evidence base, and keep them informed as it grows.
The government’s plans for relaxing the lockdown, including greater freedom to spend time outside, and the possible re-opening of schools, have unsurprisingly generated huge debate. At the same time, evidence is growing on how Covid-19 affects children, and of children’s role in the spread of the disease. This post shares my take on that evidence base and its implications.
The post starts with a summary of the clinical and epidemiological evidence base. It then looks at the collateral damage to children of the pandemic control measures. It closes with implications for policy and practice, with a particular focus on children’s play and mobility.
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Posted in Covid-19, Education, Health, Outdoor play, Public policy
Tagged child safety, childcare, coronavirus, Covid-19, education, health, outdoor education, public policy, Risk
Authors: Tim Gill and Penny Wilson
[Updated 25 April 2020 and on previous dates, with new links to other posts, ideas and reflections, plus a few additions (in italic) and
deletions (in strikethrough text) to reflect the 23 March 2020 address to the nation from the UK Prime Minister, and subsequent official guidance for England.]
The lives of parents and caregivers around the world are being turned upside down. But amidst all the fear, stress and uncertainty, children of all ages still want – and need – to play.
This post shares some thoughts and ideas on supporting children’s play in these challenging times, bearing in mind that they may need to be indoors, or
socially distancing themselves following official guidance if they are outside.
Photo: Wikipedia (creative commons licence)
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