Impact of Covid on Children’s Mental and Physical Health – A Study

In September 2020, Rackets Cubed began a year-long educational and physical activity intervention project for selected pupils from seven primary schools across the country.

The intention for the programme was to provide 1200 children from these year groups with weekly after schools coaching sessions in tennis and squash.  These would be run alongside maths coaching sessions.  After the sessions, children would be provided with a hot meal. The intervention was targeted at pupils from Years 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 to help improve their health, fitness and basic maths skills.

Fitmedia were engaged to carry out an evaluation of the project on the children’s physical fitness and on their mental wellbeing. Fitmedia designed a testing system which would assess the impact of the programme on these areas. 

The first set of testing took place in September 2020 and the findings provided a baseline indicator of the children’s mental and physical health.   They also showed how the school closures, national lockdown and social restrictions had impacted on these areas over the previous six months.

The purpose of this report is to summarise those findings.

Key findings

  1. Levels of physical fitness were extremely low for both tests.  On the Standing Broad Jump, the average percentile was below the 50th percentile, indicating lower than expected muscular strength and leg power.  The levels were even weaker for the Agility Run, indicating very low levels of speed, agility and coordination, particularly in the Year 5 and 6 age groups:
  • Overall, the percentiles for all the tests are significantly lower than has been found in past tests.  For example, a summary of results from previous Rackets Cubed projects, (2018-2019, 2019-2020), shows average percentiles for these tests in Years 4 and 5 were much higher. This would indicate a significant drop in the children’s fitness levels, compared to the same time in the previous years.
  • In relation to mental wellbeing, the children’s levels of confidence were examined in relation to doing activity outside school; doing sport; and learning and concentrating.
  • The children were the most confident in learning and concentrating. The majority of all the year groups felt confident about learning and concentrating at school, indicating that they were positive about the educational aspects of returning to school.   The children had the lowest levels of confidence in the doing activity outside school. In all the year groups except Year 4, at least 50% felt very unconfident about this area. In relation to sport, all the year groups were much more confident.
  • The Year 4s were the most confident age group across all three areas of mental wellbeing.  They were also the most consistent in the two fitness tests, with average percentiles of 36 and 34 in each test. Year 6 was the least confident about doing sport, whilst they also had the highest inconsistency in the fitness tests, and performed most weakly in the Agility Run by some margin.  In terms of gender, the boys were generally more confident than the girls about both sport and activity outside school; however, the girls were generally more confident than the boys in learning and concentrating.