There is a growing sense that every day feels the same at the moment. It's an inevitable part of lockdown, but the impact on parents and children is considerable. In many ways, the return to remote learning has been easier – schools were better prepared and pupils have adapted to it more easily than last year. But it's not without considerable downsides – the lack of social contact, team activities and, crucially, a sense of variation. Are children getting 'zoomed out' from needing to be connected for such a long part of the day? Or are schools seeing other issues which are having an impact on the happiness of children?
"I think there's a general weariness," says Emma Hattersley, Head of Godolphin School in Salisbury. "I'm not sure it's necessarily screen time – I think it's broader than that... There's always a bit of a dip at this stage in the term, anyway. I'm sure they're all looking forward to half term. It's just different and, fundamentally, I think they miss the socialising; they miss their friends and that, I think, gets to them more than anything else. I think they're enjoying the lessons enormously. And that's the crucial thing – that we are keeping them engaged during the day."
Gareth Jones, Headmaster of St Andrew's Prep Eastbourne shares a similar view: "One of the things we've seen with the older children in particular – Year 8, I would say – is they are more self-conscious because they see all these faces staring at them. And I think that is using up nervous energy and, therefore, in the evenings they are tired... most of the children are enjoying it still, but the novelty has worn off slightly by this stage of the term."
For parents, seeing their children spend so long in front of the computer creates an uncomfortable situation. Prior to the pandemic, they were encouraged – often by schools – to limit their children's screen time. Remote learning has necessitated long hours in front of the screen but many children still get their relaxation through playing on devices. Should parents be worried?