Impact of Long Covid on the school experiences of children and young people: a qualitative study.
MacLean A., Wild C., Hunt K., Nettleton S., Skea ZC., Ziebland S.
OBJECTIVES: To explore the impact of Long Covid (LC) on the school experiences of children and young people (CYP). DESIGN: Qualitative study using narrative interviews. PARTICIPANTS: 22 CYP (aged 10-18 years, 15 female) with LC and 15 parents/caregivers (13 female) of CYP (aged 5-18 years) with LC. SETTING: Interviews were conducted between October 2021 and July 2022 via online video call or telephone. Recruitment routes included social media, LC support groups, clinicians, community groups and snowballing. RESULTS: Three key findings were identified. Finding 1: Going to school is a valued part of CYP's lives and participants viewed educational attainment as important for their future trajectories. Returning to school full time was highlighted as a key part of regaining 'normal life'. Finding 2: Attending school (in-person or online) with LC is extremely difficult; even a gradual return required CYP to balance the impact of being at and engaging with school, with the need to manage symptoms to prevent relapse. Often this meant prioritising school and rest over other aspects of their lives. Finding 3: School responses to CYP with LC were reported to be mixed and hampered by difficulties communicating with healthcare professionals during the pandemic and a lack of awareness of LC among healthcare and education professionals. Participants viewed supportive school responses as staff believing, understanding and taking them seriously, alongside schools offering tailored and flexible adaptations which allowed engagement with school while limiting any deterioration of symptoms. CONCLUSIONS: This study describes how LC affects the school experiences of CYP and generates recommendations for supportive school responses alongside supportive healthcare professionals. Further research could explore the approaches that facilitate a successful return to school for CYP with LC and investigate education professionals' perspectives on support they require to positively engage with returning pupils.