As the coronavirus pandemic changed the world in 2020, the number of deaths and the economic devastation made headlines every day. With “lockdown” we saw restaurants close, planes grounded, and the rise of remote working.
We also saw the closure of schools.
There was much talk about the stresses of home schooling, but few considered the impact on the children.
At a time when young people are making friendships for life, passing exams, and enjoying the care-free life we all wish we could have back – it was all suddenly taken away from them.
Fortunately, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales (Sally Holland) set out to ensure they weren’t forgotten.
Children’s rights under the United Nations
Many of our freedoms were taken away or restricted in 2020 to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The Children’s Commissioner for Wales (CCfW) took action to ensure children and young people were able to exercise their right – under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – to “express their view and participate in decisions that affect their lives”.
To find out how the pandemic was affecting children and young people in Wales, the “Coronavirus and Me” survey was launched.
We were delighted to be involved and work with the CCfW once again.
Coronavirus and Me survey – May 2020
The project was a partnership between 4 organisations:
- Welsh Government
- The Children’s Commissioner for Wales
- Welsh Youth Parliament
- Children in Wales
To get the project under way, the CCfW provided us with a list of survey questions in (which they had designed with young people) and tasked our Research Services with designing the survey, collecting results, and creating data tables and smart reports.
After trialling a test version of the survey to make sure children found it easy to complete, the survey was conducted twice – in May 2020 and January 2021 – to compare any changes in the data as the pandemic rolled on.
Using Snap Surveys software, we set up three multi-language surveys. Because of the pandemic, we utilised an online survey which CCfW distributed to professionals such as teachers, youth leaders, and other relevant contacts via email.
- Ages 7-11
- Ages 12-18
- Accessible version with images
These surveys were in both English and Welsh.
We collected 23,000 replies in the first round of surveys and coded all of the written answers to open-ended questions.
This involves manually reading each answer and coding responses into themes, such as whether a response was positive or negative.
The CCfW team and our Research team worked together to code 30,000 written responses across 20 of the survey’s questions.
Following Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford’s announcement that schools would once again close on December 14 2020, the survey was commissioned for a second round.
This was done at a fast pace to ensure the results could be passed to the Welsh Cabinet before their next lockdown review.
Over 9 days in January 2021, we collected 19,500 responses.
Unfortunately, these results showed that young people were feeling more negative than May 2020 – particularly around getting a sufficient education.
To give the CCfW and its partners the chance to react quickly, enabled the CCfW team to live code the results as they came in.
If there were any safeguarding concerns based on individual results, a pro-active response could be taken by the CCfW office.
Using our powerful dynamic Smart Reports feature, we worked with CCfW to create template reports in PDF which can be filtered by specified subgroups (such as age or gender).
In addition, we also produced a report of the survey results for each Local Authority area.
Concerning replies can also be filtered so that they can be addressed in a timely fashion.
Children’s Commissioner for Wales on working with Snap Surveys
“We needed to act quickly to find out about children’s experiences and to share this information so that our Government and public services know what’s important to children and how they can best be supported. We’ve contracted Snap Surveys in the past to work with us to conduct large-scale surveys of children, and their platforms have enabled us to create bilingual, accessible surveys at pace. Importantly, the reporting software supports us to breakdown information by personal characteristics. This has been essential for us so that we can see not only how the pandemic is affecting children, but if the impact is greater for particular groups. This is vital info to know how best to support children through this time.”
Professor Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales
Questions touched on a number of subjects, including general happiness, the impact of the pandemic, concerns, benefits, education and more.
Here are some of the key findings.
- 58% of all children and young people feel happy “most of the time”
- 16% of secondary-school age children feel sad “most of the time”
- 2% of all children and young people have “not very often” felt safe
The top three consequences of the pandemic for young people have been:
- Not seeing friends (72%)
- Not being able to visit family members (59%)
- School or college closures (42%)
- How long the situation will last
- Whether they will catch the virus
- Children felt positive about falling number of deaths (at the time of the survey)
- 37% of children and young people did not feel worried
- Spending more time with family
- Daily exercise
- Enjoying more of the outdoors
- Learning new skills
Some also reported relief from bullying and or mental health problems.
Young people (12-18)
- 17% were happy that exams were cancelled
- 51% were worried about exams being cancelled
Year 6 pupils
- 76% want to say goodbye to their primary school
- 75% want to visit secondary school before they start
After the survey
The survey is being used on three levels: national level, local authority level, and on smaller individual levels such as in schools.
The Welsh Government is quoting the survey in their impact assessments, giving a focus to children’s experiences during the pandemic.
Issues of greatest concern to young people who completed the survey have been highlighted to the government so that they can consider what action they may be able to take.
The impact assessments noted concerns about access to parks and children’s play areas during lockdown, and this has fed into decisions which have allowed for these to remain open in future lockdowns or level four restrictions.
All local authorities have been provided with an individual report for completed survey responses for their area. This has allowed them to look at findings in more detail, such as reflecting on some children’s feedback about not always being able to understand their work in the format that has been used. Such a high response rate has helped shine a light on this issue.
Some schools have implemented wellbeing days and activities – where there is a focus on mental health, wellbeing and the importance of keeping active.
National news coverage
The Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Sally Holland, said that the views of young people were often “surprising” and that the information received would help the Welsh government in their future decision making.
This news coverage is a great example of how original research can help content marketing.
By creating this research, not only have young people been given a voice during the pandemic, but the press coverage has increased awareness of the CCfW and the importance of children’s experiences.