Three Ark Elvin Academy students attended the House of Commons’ Education Committee on Wednesday 24 March to share their experience of lockdown with MPs.
Topics discussed at the committee meeting ranged from the challenges of online learning to how the students feel they can best be supported to catch up after lockdown, as well as what it was like to return to school after such long periods away from it, and what more can be done to help students with their mental health and wellbeing.
The full recording of the committee session is now available to watch online and can be found here.
Two of Ark Elvin’s Year 9 students, Emily Da Silva Mendes and Ali Al-Rukabi, and one of Ark Elvin’s Year 11 student, Ladan Hussein, joined one Year 10 and two Year 13 students from other schools in Hampshire and Essex to answer the MPs’ questions.
The students, who connected to the meeting over their computers, offered open and frank answers to the wide-ranging questions.
In response to Apsana Begum MP about online learning and the return to school, Emily said, “When we started having to do work online, at first a lot of us were happy we had freedom and could stay at home in our safe places, but as time went by it took a toll on all of us. My mental health suffered.
“When we found out school was reopening and we were allowed to come back, we had a feeling of relief—I know I did—because we knew that we would be able to see everyone again and that support would be back.”
A re-emerging theme in the discussion was the lack of access to extra-curricular activities and the difficulty of progressing in more practical subjects.
Ali said, "[Lockdown] has affected me negatively because, although we have been doing the work online, I feel like I do not have the full information that I need. There are certain subjects, like art and DT, that I cannot do because it is practical work. It is a struggle for me."
Prior to the event, all three students expressed excitement at the possibility of telling their story to MPs, on behalf of them and their friends.
Ladan said, “I am a little nervous, but excited to speak to the MPs on behalf of the Ark Elvin Academy community, to share what people went through, as not everyone had the same experiences during lockdown.”
The students’ experience at the Committee was arranged in partnership with Place2Be, a children’s mental health charity.
Jackie Hewitt, Area Manager for London North West, Place2Be, said, “We are delighted that pupils from Place2Be partner school Ark Elvin Academy are taking part in the Education Committee evidence session. Place2Be has been providing mental health and wellbeing support to pupils at Ark Elvin Academy for over 3 years. It is vital that politicians hear directly from young people about their experiences of the pandemic, so that government policy and decision making can be based on children and young people’s lived experience and needs.”
Committee Chair Robert Halfon MP expressed his gratitude to the students at the end of the session, “Your information has been invaluable and I really wish you every possible success. You are all going to do brilliantly. I suspect some of you may even end up being MPs one day or in really good jobs.”