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Natural disasters happen across the world. The situations are different but the disruption to children's education and wellbeing is similar. This study focused on the school context changes caused by the COVID-19 global disaster, and the impact of these changes on children's mental health. The aim was to better understand the associations between any mental health changes and children's school level of deprivation and pre-disaster involvement in bullying. Cross-sectional data were collected from 4316 children aged 6–11 years old, from 57 schools across England and Wales. Data were collected before the national lockdowns, early 2020, and 3–5 months after the final return to school, summer 2021, when schools were operating under a range of context restrictions. Child data included bullying involvement at school and health-related quality of life; teacher data included reports of each child's internalising, externalising and prosocial behaviours. School-level disadvantage was determined by the proportion of children in each school eligible to receive free school meals (an indicator of family disadvantage). The results showed that victims of bullying pre-lockdown, and pupils from schools with a higher concentration of disadvantage, had significantly reduced externalising behaviours once back in the restricted school context. Victims had also increased their prosocial behaviours. It is possible that the restricted school context may have been a relief for the most vulnerable pupils. This study adds a new phase of understanding to the global disaster literature and the initial return to school when the environment is the same but the context has changed.

Original publication




Journal article


British Educational Research Journal

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