The impact of covid and lockdowns in our schools has been widely reported, but the media spotlight as primarily focused on Primary and Special Needs schools, along with children during key assessment years (GCSE/ A-Level). The research below examined the fallout within an early years setting in Co. Antrim. For early years educators the findings will be familiar and it’s interesting to see this grounded in research.

Overview

In 2020 the Covid-19 coronavirus variant, brought a global pandemic.  Government lockdowns forced mass closures. People were told to stay at home and the long-term effect on emotional health was not fully understood.  The Covid-19 pandemic and its colossal impact was felt in homes, businesses, schools, and early years settings across the world.  Families acted quickly on government advice, as the pandemic brought many imposing changes to daily life.  Lockdowns brought worry, anxiety, and emotional challenge to the well-being of many.

During the first UK national lockdown in March 2020, most schools and childcare settings closed suddenly on government advice (HM Government, 2020).  Families and childcare settings were given little time or support to prepare for this, although many parents had already begun removing their children.   In day-care nurseries, key worker parents who had some knowledge of what was to come, had already begun to keep their children at home, bubbling as one household with grandparents.  The reasons were two-fold: staying at home protected everyone within the larger family unit and if nurseries closed, families were assured of childcare meaning key worker parents were enabled to remain working. 

Schools and nurseries were encouraged to remain open to provide care for children of key workers and those classed as vulnerable.  But in stark contrast to this message, as parents made drastic changes to keep their families protected and adhere to the stay-at-home message, more and more children were removed from day care, meaning the financial viability of nurseries remaining open in most cases, was nil.  Day care settings which had initially planned to remain open were undoubtedly forced to close due to the vast numbers of families, both key worker and non-key worker, who no longer required childcare.

The aim of this research was to study the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the emotional wellbeing of children, parents, and early years practitioners, and consider how future support can be enhanced.  The questions posed were: 

  • What is emotional well-being?
  • How can a pandemic affect emotional well-being?
  • How to support the emotional well-being of adults and children and what can be done to enhance future support mechanisms? 

As a result, I posed the research question: The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the emotional wellbeing of children, parents and early years practitioners and what can be done to enhance future support mechanisms?

It was determined that the pandemic had a significant negative impact on the emotional well-being of adults.  By contrast, although young children were initially affected during lockdown and on return to nursery, both children and key workers quickly re-established those strong bonds and the emotional impact was then much reduced.   

In conclusion, due to the ongoing nature of the Covid-19 pandemic and its effect on emotional well-being, further study is clearly warranted.

Quantitative findings, conclusions and recommendations can be seen in the accompanying poster below.

Surgenor-Cooke, M. (2021). The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the emotional wellbeing of children, parents and early years practitioners and what can be done to enhance future support mechanisms - undergraduate dissertation.

Northern Ireland
Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic

Early years settings must receive realistic, extensive, timely support, to enable them to remain open during a pandemic.