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Working Paper: Covid-19 Mitigation Measures Among Children and Young People

Published: 22 Jan 2021

Summary of Scottish evidence on the COVID-19 mitigation measures aimed at children and young people

Working Paper: Covid-19 Mitigation Measures Among Children and Young People
4. Attitudes to measures and Covid-19 safety

4. Attitudes to measures and Covid-19 safety

4.1 Young people

The Lockdown Lowdown 2 survey (28th September to 2nd November 2020)[13] asked young people who had returned to in person learning whether they felt that their educational establishment had re-opened in a safe way. Almost two thirds (63%) of respondents agreed that this was the case, while 17% disagreed.

The survey provided an opportunity for young people to highlight anything they would like changed about the current arrangements for their educational course. There were 2,543 freely typed responses to this question. The majority of young people did not want anything changed (1,140 responses).

The most common theme in the open text responses (148 responses) was that safety measures within their school needed to be enforced or increased. These measures included the use of face coverings, social distancing and sanitisation practises:

"I think there should be more social distancing measures and stricter mask and hand sanitiser rules."

In addition to the survey, the Lockdown Lowdown 2 project included fivefocus groups with a total of 37 vulnerable groups of young people aged 14 to 24[14]. The focus groups took place 8th and 29th of October 2020 and the following vulnerable groups were covered:

  • Young Carers
  • BME young people
  • Disabled young people
  • Young people with experience of custody and/or the criminal justice system
  • Care experienced young people

The topic guides for the focus groups covered prompts on Covid-19 mitigation measures, with some additional detail in the disabled group. It should be noted that as the focus groups took place between the 8th and 29th of October 2020, this was prior to the new restrictions which made the wearing of face coverings mandatory in class for senior phase pupils. It should also be noted that the focus groups covered a wide range of topics, both specific to the lived experience of the particular vulnerable groups, and more widely on young people's experience of Covid-19, and were not specifically focused on Covid-19 mitigation measures.

Young people in the focus groups were appreciative of mitigation measures taken in educational establishments:

"In a way, nothing's changed but it has changed. Our college paid for a proper fog tunnel with people to man it. The precautions they're taking are unbelievable, I'd be happy to stay in college all day. The way they've done it, it seems so seamless …I don't think anything's too difficult, stay two metres apart, bring your own lunch, wear a face mask. They've got that many hand sanitiser stations throughout the college that they're always like two metres apart from one another – there's that many of them.'

Participants agreed with social distancing, although found it difficult to do in schools and when socialising with friends in public. Some reported their friendship groups not adhering to physical distancing. However, for others physical distancing was less of an issue:

"Social distancing hasn't really made that much of a difference, we've been going to the park and stuff and meeting with other folk, it's not really bothered me. We haven't been able to hug, or that, but we've been sticking to the rules."

One place where many young people felt that mitigation measures and physical distancing were not adequately enforced was public transport.

The majority of participants agreed that face coverings should be worn in public and no participants expressed problems with wearing them in school. Some explicitly stated that they had no negative impact on them:

"It shouldn't be a questionable thing to wear a mask or not, if it is scientifically proven that wearing a mask will limit the spread of coronavirus then I personally don't think this affects my freedom in any way."

The only concern around face coverings raised was from a young carer, who felt that others were not wearing face coverings when required or not wearing them correctly, making them feel unsafe due to the impact that this might have on their family:

"Since we've [been] back at school, they brought in that you need to wear masks in corridors, but at my school a lot of people aren't really wearing masks. Obviously I'm a young carer, and the person I care for is at risk, so it's a big risk me going into school and mixing with people, obviously there's rules at school but I see them at the weekend and they're not following the rules. I feel unsafe at school. I don't want to get it from someone and put my dad at risk. I'm still going into school for now, but my mum is keeping an eye on numbers, and if it gets too risky they'll keep me and my brother at home."

Only one participant said that they had seen see-through face coverings/visors being used in an education setting. They had had a positive experience.

Young people that had an exemption from face coverings found that this was managed well through lanyards in both school and shops, although one participant had witnessed an incident where an individual with an exemption lanyard was stigmatised by another passenger on public transport.

The Lockdown Lowdown 2 survey also asked young people how concerned they were about Covid-19. Around seven in ten were concerned about a second wave, just under two thirds were concerned about transmitting Covid-19 to others and just under half were concerned about catching Covid-19 themselves. See Figure 6 below.

Figure 6 Concerns around Covid-19

Bar graph showing concerns around Covid-19: transmitting covid, second wave, catching covid

When asked if they had any further thoughts on these issues the most common concerns were fears around transmitting Covid-19 to others, decline of their mental health during the Covid-19 outbreak and worries about vulnerable family members.

The forthcoming TeenCovidLife survey discussed in section 3.2 contains some questions on wider safety concernsaround Covid-19 in schools(agree - disagree scale)

  • It is safe for me and other pupils to return to school full-time
  • I worry that returning to school will increase the risk of me getting Covid-19
  • I worry that returning to school will increase my family's risk of getting covid-19

Reporting is expected in early 2021.

4.2 Parents

YouGov polling carried out for Scottish Government from 20-21 October, 27-28 October and 3-4 November shows a high level of worry among parents of children under 18 that schools or childcare will close again. During the 3-4 November polling 52% of parents agreed that they were worried, an increase from the previous week (46%), but lower than during 20-21 October polling (64%). See Figure 7 below.

Figure 7 'Agreement with 'I am worried that schools/nurseries will close again in future if restrictions are tightened'

Bar graph showing percentage worried that schools/nurseries will close again in future

Sample sizes: 20-21 October 221; 27-28 October 190; 3-4 November 215

In terms of parent's attitudes, polling from 22-23 September[15] on restrictions for children in general found:

  • 73% agreed that 'It is better for children to follow the restrictions than have schools close again'
  • However, 18% agreed that 'Following restrictions is more harmful for my child than catching Coronavirus'
  • 41% agreed 'There is no need for children to follow restrictions if they are meeting friends they go to school/nursery with'

Polling from 1-2 September specifically on face coverings found (please note findings should be treated with caution due to small sample size[16]):

  • 79% of parents of secondary school children were comfortable with their children wearing face coverings while moving about the school in corridors and in confined communal areas
  • 75% of parents with children aged 4-17 using school transport were comfortable with their children wearing face coverings on school transport

An open sample, non-representative poll carried out in August by Disability Equality Scotland on its website[17] asked respondents if they had any concerns about the use of face coverings in schools and on school transport. 343 individuals reported and 87% of these had no concerns. Concerns were reported around:

  • stigma for those exempt from the regulations
  • the impact of face coverings on pupils with hearing impairments and others who rely on lip reading and facial expressions for communications
  • affordability and availability of face coverings
  • the lack of use or enforcement of face coverings on school transport, particularly when school transport is shared with the general public

Contact

Email: socialresearch@gov.scot