On the anniversary of the first UK lockdown, Leeds Trinity University hosted an online conference bringing together national and international speakers to explore the wider impact of Covid-19 for families worldwide.

The event on 16 March 2022 explored the lessons learned from research and was intended to help inform policy debates relating to children and families living through the pandemic.

Researchers came together to engage with the latest debates and research in this area, including policy and practice implications across the globe.

Covid summit 2022.

Schedule and speakers

Professor Charles Egbu, Vice-chancellor of Leeds Trinity University opened the Global Covid-19 Summit.

Our keynote speaker was Dr Polly Waite, University of Oxford, Principal Investigator of the Co-Space Study. Plus we had the latest research from national and international perspectives, including findings from China, Canada, India, Ukraine, Israel, and the UK.

 Below you can see our session topics, speakers and download slides of the presentations.

12.30pm-1.00pm Virtual lobby  
1.00pm-1.10pm Professor Chares Egbu, Vice-chancellor, Leeds Trinity University. Formal welcome and opening of the summit.

Keynote Speaker

Dr Polly Waite, University of Oxford, UK.

Tracking the Mental Health of Children, Young People and Families through the Covid-19 Pandemic: Findings from the Co-SPACE Project.
1.35pm-1.50pm Dr. Meenakshi Shukla, Magadh University, India. Young People’s Worries during the Covid-19 Pandemic: Cross-Country Similarities and Differences.
1.50pm-2.05pm Dr Yuwei, Xu, University of Nottingham, UK and Dr Jie Gao, UCL Institute of Education. Understanding Young Children's Perspectives On and Experiences of Covid-19 in China and the UK.
2.20pm-2.35pm Professor Helen Minnis, University of Glasgow, UK. Exploring New Models of Education: Lessons from the Pandemic.
2.35pm-2.50pm Professor Carmen Clayton, Leeds Trinity University and Rafe Clayton, University of Leeds, UK. Family Screen Use during the Pandemic.
2.50pm-3.05pm Yulia Sobol, Cultural Geographies NGO, Ukraine. The Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Children’s Everyday Practices in Ukraine.
3.05pm-3.20pm Professor Jonathon Macguire, University of Toronto, and Dr Shelley Vanderhout, University of Ottawa, Canada. Engaging Parents as Partners in Children's Covid-19 Research: The TARGet Kids! Covid-19 Study of Children and Families.
3.30pm-4.30pm Global Cafe.  

Dr Polly Waite, University of Oxford

Dr Polly Waite.

Dr Polly Waite is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Oxford. She is also a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and holds an NIHR Postdoctoral Fellowship. Since March 2020, she has co-led the UKRI/Westminster Foundation-funded Co-SPACE study, tracking the mental health of children, young people and their parents/carers over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic through online monthly surveys and in-depth interviews. Beyond this, her primary clinical and research interests are anxiety disorders in adolescents, and she has edited and authored papers and books on anxiety for professionals, young people and their families. 

Profile: https://www.psy.ox.ac.uk/people/polly-waite  

Twitter: @pollywaite

Session: Tracking the mental health of children, young people and families through the Covid-19 pandemic: Findings from the Co-SPACE project

The Co-SPACE (COVID-19 Supporting Parents, Adolescents, and Children in Epidemics) project has been tracking children and young people and parent/carer’s mental health throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This has involved participants completing a monthly survey since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 until July 2021, with further follow-up surveys planned. We have also conducted in-depth interviews with young people, parents/carers and professionals working with families. The results are helping to identify what protects children and young people from deteriorating mental health, over time, and at particular stress points, and how this may vary according to child and family characteristics.

Dr Meenakshi Shukla, Magadh University, India

Dr Meenakshi Shuki.

Meenakshi Shukla is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Magadh University, Bodh Gaya, India. Her research interests involve exploring the relationship of emotions and emotional disorders with health. She is a member of several national and international academic bodies, such as the Indian Science Congress Association, American Psychological Association, International Association of Applied Psychology, Association for Psychological Science, etc. She is a member of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission (CSC) Alumni Advisory Panel.

Publons profile: https://publons.com/researcher/3811693/meenakshi-shukla/

Session: Young people’s worries during the COVID-19 pandemic: Cross-country similarities and differences

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant, multifaceted impact on people’s lives across the globe. Alongside disruption of daily routines, continued uncertainty over the course of the pandemic has yielded adverse effects on mental health and well-being. These psychological ramifications may represent a more prolonged and prevalent morbidity than the infection itself. Adolescence and young adulthood are critical transitional periods in life and emerging evidence indicates that young people are likely to be one of the groups most affected in terms of mental health outcomes. During the pandemic a few studies have looked at worry themes across adult populations. Of the few studies that have looked at how young people are managing their emotions, the majority encompassed “young adults” (those aged 18 years and over) and the adolescent age group of 12-17 years and the specific content of worries of young people during the pandemic has not received much focus, despite this being a critical developmental juncture for the emergence of persistent emotional problems. In this study we report the worries experienced by young people (12–18-year-olds) from India, the United Kingdom, and Israel during the different phases of the COVID-19 pandemic and compare how these vary across countries with different sociocultural and economic backgrounds. Unlike previous studies, we enabled participants to express their worries in their own words, providing the opportunity to capture the lived experiences of the participants. Better insights into what young people are most concerned about during the pandemic is useful in the development of resources to help young people to mitigate the long-term negative impact of the pandemic on their mental health and well-being.

You can download the presentation below.

Dr Yuwei Xu, University of Nottingham, UK

Dr Yuwei Xu.

Dr Yuwei Xu is an Assistant Professor in Education and Teacher Development at the University of Nottingham, UK. Previously, he has held academic positions at the UCL Institute of Education (where he remains an honorary lecturer) and the University of Portsmouth. Yuwei is an editor for Children & Society journal, an associate editor for Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, and an editorial board member for British Educational Research Journal, Early Years: An International Research Journal & Journal of Childhood, Education & Society. He is also a British Educational Research Association (BERA) council member and membership lead for Gender and Education Association. 

Profile: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/education/people/yuwei.xu

Dr Jie Gao, UCL Institute of Education

Dr Jie Gao.

Dr Jie Gao is a Research Fellow and Lecturer at UCL Institute of Education. Her current research projects focus on young children's voices in Early Childhood Education and teacher continuing professional development. Her research background lies in the psychology of education and her research interests include parenting, play, agency, well-being and motivation theories. She is also interested in research on innovative methodologies, particularly those of mixed-method approaches, such as Q-methodology.

Session: Understanding young children's perspectives on and experiences of COVID-19 in China and the UK

This exploratory project aims at investigating young children's perspectives on and experiences of COVID-19. The negative effects of the pandemic on children's physical and mental health are well documented and much discussed. However, little is known about how children actively integrate their everyday thinking within the context of coronavirus outbreak and how they cope with the confinement caused by this public health crisis. We employ the theory of child agency and view children as active and resilient participants in the context of the pandemic. We adopt an innovative methodological approach to access young children in the two countries and engage their parents as co-researchers (N=20). Participatory visual methods are used, including children's drawings and/or photo-taking facilitated by parents and follow-up conversations between children and parents about the drawings/photos. Further, parents will be interviewed to contextualise children's perspectives and experiences during the confinement, and to understand their experiences of participating in the research. This study has been granted ethical approval from the first author's institution. Taking a comparative approach, this project explores how child agency is embedded and shaped in different sociocultural discourses in China and the UK - where there are different policies, situations, and public responses to the outbreak. This study understands the immediate impact of public health emergencies on children's life from their own voices. It also informs long-term health education that engages with young children in sustaining a healthy world (SDG3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages).

Professor Helen Minnis, University of Glasgow, UK

Professor Helen Minnis.

Helen Minnis is Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Glasgow. She has had a longstanding clinical and research focus on the psychiatric problems of abused and neglected children. Currently, her focus is on intervention research, including a randomised controlled trial of an infant mental health service for young children in foster care and a randomised controlled trial of Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy for primary school-aged children in adoptive or foster placements. She is also conducting behavioural genetic research focussed on the role of abuse and neglect and its overlap with neurodevelopment across the life course. She has collaborations with colleagues at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, the Universities of Aalborg and Aarhus, Denmark and with the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre, Gothenburg, Sweden.

Profile: https://www.gla.ac.uk/researchinstitutes/healthwellbeing/staff/helenminnis/

Twitter: @ProfMinnis

Session: Exploring new models of education: lessons from the pandemic

After the first COVID-19-related lockdown of 2020, we conducted qualitative interviews to explore how families were coping and repeated these after two months. We found that some families had entered vicious cycles, in which their initial problems multiplied, while others had entered virtuous cycles, in which their initial coping strategies served them even better over time.  Coping with home education was a particular source of stress. This led us to develop and evaluate a new model of education for the pandemic called Closed Childcare Clusters (CCCs), in which families would form a bubble and take turns educating each other’s children.  We used disease modelling to demonstrate to parents and teachers that CCCs were likely much safer, in terms of infection risk, than school return. Since mid-2021, we have been evaluating the potential for a version of the CCC model to be used to support children who, for whatever reason, are unable to attend school even in non-pandemic times. This presentation will present the CCC model and discuss the potential for its use to help us think differently about the education of our children.

Professor Carmen Clayton, Leeds Trinity University

Professor Carmen Clayton.

Carmen’s research interests revolve around young people, families and childhood with specific expertise concerning young fatherhood, migration, ethnicity and culture. Carmen’s recent research has looked into the impact of lockdown for a diverse set of parents and young people. The ‘British Families in Lockdown’ study (BFiL) has had several evidence papers accepted by UK Parliament and national media interest (e.g. The Guardian and BBC). Carmen's young fatherhood research includes several studies, and this has spanned over eleven years. She is currently leading on a new study titled 'Connected Young Fatherhood: Rural and Urban Experiences' in collaboration with Daddilife, Leeds City Council and the County Councils Network.

Rafe Clayton, University of Leeds, UK

Rafe Clayton.

Rafe Clayton is a researcher and academic at the University of Leeds within the department of Media and Communication. His particular interests include how the emergent and diverse uses of screens and moving images for entertainment, education, work and communication may exacerbate perceived inequalities among vulnerable groups. He is the principal investigator for the ‘New Uses of Screens in Post-Lockdown Britain’ study and is co-investigator for the ‘British Families in Lockdown Study’ led by Leeds Trinity University.

Session: Family Screen Use during the Pandemic

The experience of the coronavirus lockdowns has transformed the lived experiences of British people and the effects can still be seen. The use of screens for human interaction for instance, has become increasingly normalised since the Coronavirus outbreak as communication which had previously occurred face-to-face, has now significantly moved online, including medical appointments, job interviews, school lessons, work meetings, socialising with friends and family and much more. Drawing upon two linked studies- ‘British Families in Lockdown’ and ‘New Uses in Screens Use in Post Lockdown Britain’, this presentation highlights key findings relating to parental attitudes towards screen time and use with twenty parents across the UK, using qualitative semi-structured interviews. Participants’ spoke about the practical and mental health benefits of using screens and this included the large-scale consumption of films and TV programmes, which for many were essential in maintaining their positivity especially during lockdowns and beyond. Parents, however, were also concerned that children may now have experienced a ‘new normal’ regarding screen use during their formative years, which led to further concerns related to online harms and exposures to disinformation. With increases in screen time also came other associated risks and concerns, often around children’s well-being. Some children were reported as becoming more reclusive or experiencing behavioural changes. Parents were also concerned about the suitability of content their children were exposed to. Parents themselves felt that excessive exposure to screens may have had a negative impact on their physical health. As recently identified by the DCMS (2021) and the House of Lords (2021) it is essential that the health, well-being and inequality impacts upon British people are considered in more depth and understanding the experiences of using screens in a ‘hybrid future’ is vital and in “urgent need” of research. Through our presentation, we hope to highlight the many ways in which parents use screens but also the concerns that families’ may have and the role of government policy here as we move towards a post-Covid Britain.

Yulia Sobol, Cultural Geographies NGO, Ukraine

 Yulia Sobol.

Yulia Sobol, M.A. in Sociology and Social Anthropology, is a researcher and the co-founder of Cultural Geographies. Since 2015 the organization has engaged with cultural phenomena such as inclusivity in arts and culture, and the social and urban involvement of children and youth through various interdisciplinary art and educational practices. Yulia is responsible for Children's Geographies which is particularly concerned with children's agency in urban and social processes and more broadly conducting research on aspects of childhood. 

Websites: https://childrencovid19.org.ua/en/ and https://culturalgeographies.org.ua/ 

Session: The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s everyday practices in Ukraine.

In this study, it was important for us to look at the consequences of the pandemic from children’s perspectives: to hear them and understand how they lived during this time, to learn what problems they faced, and how they adjusted to these new “adult” rules (if they did). That is why we decided to conduct socio-anthropological research which allowed us to use a different lens — we switched, to the extent possible, from a biased perception of children’s everyday lives to their own understanding of what was happening. Not only did we use methods in our remote ethnography which would be familiar and engaging to our respondents, we also invited them to address a question of their choice to an audience of peers across Ukraine during the second stage of our research.

Accordingly, we tried to cover as much of everyday life in the pandemic as possible. We were interested in children’s reaction to this transition — of course, most activities were now taking place from home. How did they feel about it? How did they distribute their time and attention? How had their studies, leisure, interactions with other people and with their own city changed? How did they exercise their basic rights — a right to play, to communicate, and to learn? And what, in their opinion, can adults do, create, or change to improve their daily lives while respecting the dangers presented by COVID-19? The results of this study helped us to learn firsthand how Ukrainian children aged 9–16 lived during the first stages of the pandemic: what they were thinking, what they were busy with, and what bothered them. The methods we used in our work, i.e. remote ethnography (photographs analysis, visual and descriptive associations, video tours, mental mapping) and in-depth interviews, allowed us to put together various pieces of the puzzle. However, they did not always perfectly fit together: some findings only confirmed global trends and certain basic assumptions, others, however, opened up broad prospects for further investigation. The issues which particularly caught our attention will be presented during the conference.

Professor Jonathon Macguire, University of Toronto

Professor Jonathon Macguire.

Professor Maguire is a general paediatrician in the Department of Pediatrics at St. Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto. He holds the Lawson Chair in Patient Engagement in Child Nutrition and is a scientist in the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions at Unity Health Toronto. Dr Maguire co-leads TARGet Kids!, which is a large children’s cohort study in Toronto, Canada through which he conducts patient-oriented research.

Twitter: @target_kids  

Dr Shelley Vanderhout, University of Ottawa, Canada

Dr Shelley Vanderhout.

Dr Shelley Vanderhout trained as a registered dietitian at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and holds a PhD in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Toronto. Her applied research program is focused on paediatric nutrition and using patient-oriented innovative clinical trials to develop and test early life nutrition interventions for preventing non-communicable diseases. She is currently leading research to develop methods for youth and family engagement in health research and patient-centred studies at the University of Ottawa.

Twitter: @vanderhouts

Session: Engaging parents as partners in children's COVID-19 research: The TARGet Kids! COVID-19 Study of Children and Families

We describe the methods, successes and challenges and results from engaging parents while studying impacts of COVID-19 on healthy children and families. Parent partners in a Parent And Clinician Team (PACT) informed study aims, supported feasibility, and recommended changes to enhance participation. PACT members voiced that they felt a sense of connectedness and purpose by contributing to COVID-19 research. Engagement increased by parents acquiring new roles, attending more frequent meetings, and co-creating alternative methods of engagement. Bi-weekly information from 1200 families was obtained about their compliance with COVID-19 social distancing policies. There was generally high compliance with distancing policies but reductions were seen over time.