THERE are fears the impact of coronavirus restrictions on young people in Northumberland could take years to resolve.

The closure of schools to stop the spread of the virus saw face-to-face learning disrupted for thousands of children across the county.

Councillors were told that the impact has been most heavily felt by youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds.

A report presented to members of the council’s health and wellbeing scrutiny committee said the pandemic had “adversely affected the social, educational and emotional development of some children and young people”.

Leading officers said this would have had an impact on their progress in the coming years.

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting (January 9) of the committee, public health consultant Jon Lawler said: “Covid disrupted face-to-face education and had an impact on mental health and wellbeing.

“There was a disproportionate impact on certain young people. The most disadvantaged have borne the brunt.

“Without a doubt, it has had an impact on the progress for young people in Northumberland.”

The committee was looking at a mid-term review of the council’s joint health and wellbeing strategy of “giving children and young people the best start in life”. Mr Lawler said that the next five years of the strategy would have to look at Covid recovery.

Data presented to the committee showed that “school readiness” had fallen, while absences had increased in primary school.

Cllr Isabel Hunter, who represents the Berwick West with Ord ward, added: “It is going to take years and years to get past this Covid situation.

“Up in the north, we’re coming across first schools and even nurseries where the children are well, well behind – they haven’t had the interaction. Primary schools are having to use their budgets to help fund health services to interact in the schools.

“Until they unravel the health problems and the mental health problems, they can’t get on with the education. One of the areas I represent is quite deprived, they were already on the back foot before Covid.

“I think it’s going to take us years to get those inequalities sorted out to give them as good a chance as everybody else.”

Former headteacher Alan Hodgson, who sits on the council’s family and children’s services scrutiny committee, warned that children who were behind at the start of their school life would struggle to make up the time.  

He added: “This is actually critical, because those children will struggle throughout primary school and never make the gap up.”