This working paper summarises the currently available evidence base around mitigation measures for children and young people, including the use of face coverings in schools. It also highlights forthcoming sources. It focuses on wellbeing impacts on young people, understanding of restrictions, communications aimed at young people; and compliance and enforcement. Evidence to date is mainly qualitative in nature or drawn from non-representative surveys. Forthcoming survey research with young people will provide more robust, representative findings.
In terms of the currently available evidence, key points are:
- There are no quantitative data available to date directly from young people on wellbeing impacts of Covid-19 restrictions, but qualitative research has consistently shown that young people generally are in favour of both physical distancing and the use of face coverings, and appreciate safety measures being taken, within educational establishments.
- Within focus groups with young people from vulnerable groups, some disabled participants raised an issue about physical distancing making communication for deaf and partially sighted people more difficult. No negative impacts of face coverings were identified. The only concern around face coverings raised was by one young carer who felt unsafe due to lack of compliance within their school, and called for stronger enforcement.
- In polling conducted during September, a majority of parents of children under 18 were comfortable with the use of face coverings in schools and on school transport.
Understanding of restrictions
- There are notable levels of confusion or lack of knowledge about current restrictions and rules among young people. In the recent Lockdown Lowdown survey of young people aged 11 to 24 more than half of respondents said that they knew what the rules were in general, but were not sure on all the details. A notable minority also noted in open text answers that they found the rules confusing.
- In terms of parental understanding, recent polling showed an increase in parents of children under 18 saying they were clear on what the guidance means for their children. However, there continues to be low awareness of the detail of the rules, and no evidence of consistently increasing awareness over time. No more than 4 in 10 parents at any time point were able to correctly identify the correct restrictions in any setting or age group. Levels of awareness were lowest for rules outdoors, particularly rules for children aged 12-17.
- Qualitative research with young people points towards the need for more targeted messaging for children and young people. Research on communications carried out by Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy found that while young people agreed that messaging on social distancing was clear, they felt that messaging around the indirect impacts of Covid-19 for their age groups was unclear, particularly with regard to issues such as education. Older young people (16+) felt that government information and messaging was not relevant to them, on the whole, and that they would like to be addressed more directly. This is consistent with findings from the Lockdown Lowdown survey and focus groups.
Compliance and enforcement
- In terms of compliance, polling from the end of November found that 10% of parents of children under 12 and 20% of parents of children aged 12-17 said that their child had done something in the past week that was not within the restrictions / guidance. During October and November, around 4 in 10 parents said they had adapted guidance to suit their family's need. The main reason given was their child's mental health.
- There are no quantitative data available to date directly from young people on compliance, but qualitative research suggests there is a recognition by young people themselves that some young people are not complying with rules, particularly around social distancing. However, many young people perceived that other age groups were also not adhering to the restrictions, and that their age group was being unfairly judged by the media.
- Open text answers in the Lockdown Lowdown survey and findings from the focus groups with vulnerable groups suggest that many young people would like to see stronger enforcement of existing rules and restrictions in general.