Coronavirus: Concern over schoolchildren's mental health

Concerns have been raised about the effects of Covid-19 on the mental health and well-being of children returning to school.

Schools in Northern Ireland were closed in March because of coronavirus.

The education minister announced last week that pupils will return full-time at the start of the new term.

Garry Matthewson, principal of Holy Family Primary School in Derry, said: “We know that for some children, this pandemic has been immensely difficult and we are very keen to get them all back to school safely.

"We really won’t know the full extent of the damage that has been caused, until we have every child back to school and have the opportunity to re-establish, reconnect and develop those relationships again."

His comments follow a new report by Barnardo’s NI that has highlighted challenges that schools are facing regarding pupils’ mental health.

Julie Healy, head of programmes at Barnardo’s NI, said: "For many children, school is their lifeline, their safe space, and going back to school will offer vital support.

"Schools cannot take on this challenge alone though, and support and guidance from our government will be crucial."

Video journalist: Niall McCracken