In answer to the problem of disruption to the continuity of children’s education and their mental health I propose the following ideas:
1) Repurpose high street retail spaces that are no longer in use into outdoor spaces that could include specific areas for educational purposes and
2) Incentivise and reward physical activity to promote wellbeing and to tackle the obesity crisis.
One of the by-products of the COVID19 crisis is that consumers have changed the way they shop and, as a result, a significant number of major retailers went bankrupt (Debenhams, Top Shop etc) during the pandemic. So, there is going to be a lot of unused retail space because their new owners are just going to use online selling platforms. My idea stems from the German “Waldkindergarten” (forest kindergarten) concept where pre-school children are taught outdoors whatever the weather.
However, rather than identify green-field sites for these projects, you could redevelop swathes of inner-City areas into green spaces and equip them with some useful features that children of all ages could access. Some sheltered areas would be provided in the form of eco-pods that had charging points and were WiFi enabled.
There could also be catering trucks providing wholesome food in the parks too which would help the beleaguered hospitality industry and encourage people to support their local suppliers again. Children who are entitled to free school meals could present a QR code on their phones or a card at these trucks and get a nutritious hot meal. And of course, all members of society could benefit from the sites outside of school hours (ie: evenings and weekends.)
In most cases, the transport infrastructure would already be in place so everyone could easily access these zones. In doing this, no child should have to go without education or decent food and, in the year when the UK is hosting COP26, it would also boost our green credentials amongst the global community.
One of the observations I made from looking at photos of the victims of the COVID19 pandemic was that a large proportion of them were overweight/obese. This is an entirely preventable, social problem and one which, if tackled, could save the NHS a lot of money further down the line by reducing the number of people suffering from heart disease and some forms of cancer.
From an early age, we know that children respond well to being rewarded for doing something that they are told to do and/or for doing something well. Why don’t you task someone to create an App that tracks activity (like Strava for example) and then reward children when they have reached certain milestones.
The reward should not be cash per se but should have some monetary value. Eg: they would receive a voucher which could be redeemed for reduced leisure centre/gym membership or perhaps some equipment to use at home. This would give the child a sense of achievement and also boost the gym sector economy which has been hit badly due to closures throughout the pandemic.
It is also widely acknowledged that there is a link between physical activity and a greater sense of wellbeing. So, if we can encourage more young people to be active then it follows that fewer of them will be depressed. Or at least, if they are still depressed, hopefully, it will be less often/less severely as a result of taking exercise.