Why young people deserve more sympathy over pandemic sacrifices – Sarah Todd

CORONAVIRUS has been rubbish for everyone. But as a second year of proms, sports days, end of term plays, scout camps and so on are cancelled, there’s something so desperately sad about all the rites of passage that youngsters have missed out on.

Year Five (Otters) pupils at The Academy at St James, Primary School, Chelwood Drive, Allerton, Bradford, were taking part in a programme to support UK schools, helping them tackle the physical and emotional impact of lockdown on children. Research led by Leeds Beckett University demonstrates that their Physical Active Learning (PAL) approach tackles inactivity levels – and impacts positively on academic performance. Photo: James Hardisty.

Before the older generation complain, it is true that the young have all the time in the world to make up for lost time. The sadness that strikes this correspondent is that a lot of these missed milestone life events would have helped form the characteristics that they would carry through into adult life.

Our 17-year-old son was pestered into helping his mother fold a huge dustsheet the other day and he brushed off the corner-to-corner instructions with “there’s no need to go on, I have been to scout camp”.

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How lucky is he? There will be a whole generation who would have been desperately looking forward to their first camp away with scouts, brownies or similar back in 2020.

The school prom is another rite of passage lost to many pupils in the pandemic.

If they also miss out in these summer holidays that’s probably it – they’ll have gone off the boil completely by the time it’s next year.

Some children didn’t miss a beat 
when it was the primary school residential trip.

Others got themselves into a real pickle, not sleeping beforehand and getting terribly worried about leaving their loved ones behind. They always 
got off the bus at the end of the trip all grown up and looking forward to the next one.

Those children will now have got away with not tackling their homesickness and that will be that. Come September they’ll be off to secondary school and they’ll probably never now get the guts to go on the ski trip, French exchange or whatever else is on offer in the post-Covid classroom.

many children have lost out on the school sports day, and other rites of passage, in the pandemic.

There’s nobody hates the American import of the prom more than yours truly. All that daft money on dresses and make-up and the focus being on looks and who’s spent the most. But having said all that, we’ve all come across little rays of sunshine over the years.

The shy, studious girl with specs who had a Cinderella-like transformation on the night into the belle of the ball, the awkward lad who turns up in a really clever mode of transport – like a wheelbarrow – and gets on the front page of the local ’paper and from that day forward always has legendary status and a mate by his side.

Wearing a suit, listening to speeches, staying out late and sneaking a few underage drinks. They are all pieces 
of the jigsaw of youth that help 
complete the picture of the adult they 
will become.

Sports days are another example of key life events that children are missing out on. Too much focus is on academic achievement, so what a refreshing interlude the annual egg-and-spoon races have been.

Time for the boy branded naughty because he can’t sit still to have his moment of glory. Time for parents to chat with other mums and dads and just have a lighthearted few hours.

The Husband went down in primary school history for taking the fathers’ obstacle race too seriously and we have photographic evidence of him elbowing all the competition out of the way before diving triumphantly, tummy first, into the inflatable tunnel that led to the winning line.

We still meet up (pandemics allowing) with the people we belly-laughed (no pun intended) with that day. Won’t be far off 15 years ago.

Now, even if sports days are allowed to go ahead, parents aren’t allowed anywhere near. It’s all a rum going on.

Fast-forward from school days and things like learning to drive that we all took for granted have all hit the curb.

Especially for those living in the country, the loss of independence of not being able to get behind the wheel has been a bitter blow.

The booking system for tests, which gives no preference to those who have had them cancelled (just puts them to the back of the queue), is enough to make a vicar swear.

The other week our 20-year-old daughter went nightclubbing. There 
was such excitement; deciding what to wear, she declared that it was about 
two years since she’d last worn her 

They sat around at tables of six but that was all they did – sit. There was no dancing. Imagine that? There’s a whole squad out there who have never asked a girl to dance, or the other way around to not be sexist about it.

Yes, these aren’t hardships like the families that have lost loved ones to the virus. They pale into insignificance next to the horrors witnessed by hospital staff or the sacrifices made by those caring for the elderly. But that makes them none the less important.

Becoming a fully-rounded adult takes a childhood of experiences...

Sarah Todd is a former editor of Yorkshire Life magazine. She is a farmer’s daughter, mother and journalist specialising in country life.

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