LIFE challenges are likely to continue for Dorset’s ‘Covid Cohort’ long after pandemic restrictions end.

Many youngsters who have been in and out of school or college when lockdown rules changed over the past 16 months are continuing to have problems.

Some have suffered mental illness and anxiety, others have found it difficult to return to education, while those leaving school or college at this time are facing an uncertain future.

Dorset’s executive director of children’s services Theresa Leavy said the county would need to have support in place for the foreseeable future and called for understanding and compassion for youngsters who may still be facing challenging times.

She told a Dorset Council people and health overview committee on Tuesday that many children and families had suffered because of the pandemic and would continue to do so as they re-adjusted to new circumstances.

Ms Leavy said those she currently felt for were those leaving education who might otherwise have been looking to travel, to meet up with friends over the summer, or had been hoping to find a job and set out on a career path – all after a year of disrupted education.

She said Dorset Council and its partners would do what it could to help and she hoped the council would create more apprenticeship positions itself to help some of those leaving education this year.

For those still of school age she said priority would be given to persuading those who had ‘opted out’ for whatever reason, to come back.

“If they are not at school they are not learning and they can be at risk,” she said.

Efforts are also being made to tackle an estimated 20 per cent rise in eating disorders and an increase in mental health issues.

There is also a pledge of support for early years providers, some of which are now in financial problems, according to Dorchester councillor, Stella Jones.

She also warned of difficulties for school pupils in August when their education certificates were issued, based in most cases, only on teacher assessment.

She said it was almost certain to lead to upset and disappointment for some.

Education director Vik Verma said the service continued to talk weekly with head teachers and had good monitoring systems and methods of support in place for vulnerable children, work which would continue throughout the summer.

“We are aiming for a strong start in September and we hope the next academic year will be a full one,” he said.

He told the meeting that more than twenty Dorset schools now had summer programmes in place, a figure he hoped would have been higher, but said that it was understandable that recruiting volunteers from an exhausted workforce was bound to be difficult.

The schools signed up for the summer schools programme are –

  • Ferndown Upper School
  • The Purbeck School
  • West Moors Middle School
  • Lytchett Minster School
  • Sturminster Newton High School
  • Beaminster School
  • The Blandford School
  • Yewstock School
  • Dorchester Middle School
  • St Mary's Church of England Middle School, Puddletown
  • The Gryphon School
  • The Swanage School
  • Shaftesbury School
  • Queen Elizabeth's School
  • Allenbourn Middle School
  • St Michael's Church of England Middle School, Colehill
  • Atlantic Academy Portland
  • Emmanuel Middle Church of England Middle School
  • Lockyer's Middle School
  • All Saints' Church of England Academy
  • Wey Valley Academy
  • Budmouth Academy Weymouth
  • St Osmund's Church of England Middle School
  • Ferndown Middle School