Class of Covid: Meet the children and young people we're following over 12 months as they experience life after lockdown

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent John Ray

Everyone in the UK has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic in one way or another. Be it losing loved ones, suffering illness themselves, working from home or being furloughed - it's changed the way we live our day-to-day lives - perhaps permanently.

For the younger generation, the pandemic has meant missing out on an important developmental time in their lives - no matter what their age.

With lockdowns starting in March 2020, some pupils have been subject to nearly an entire year without face-to-face contact with teachers, playtime with their friends and the huge array of benefits attending school or university every day can bring.

So, how are students feeling about going back to school? How will life be different for them post-lockdown? And what about those who have left education and are looking for jobs in an economy where young people's employment prospects have been hit particularly hard by the effects of the pandemic?

In a new series, ITV News has assembled our own Class of Covid - a group of children and young people across the country who have agreed to share their experiences with us.

Over the next year, on ITV News programmes and online, we'll be reporting their journeys and the ups and downs they face - and look forward to life beyond lockdown.

Meet our Class of Covid:

Aaisha, 11, Bolton

March 8 is a big day for Aaisha for two reasons - it's back to school and her 11th birthday.

Aaisha is looking forward to seeing friends in school again. "The hardest part of this lockdown was when I fell and broke my arm", she says. Homeschooling has been tough for Aaisha, who has Brittle Bone Disease and uses a wheelchair.

Learning at home has been virtually impossible since a fall, with one arm in a cast and the other in a sling.

Avid Liverpool fan Aaisha was due to go to Anfield as a ‘make a wish’ charity outing but it was cancelled due to the pandemic. "What I'm looking forward to when this lockdown is over is to see my family and friends and going on holiday abroad," she tells ITV News.Further ahead in the future, Aaisha will be attending a new school for Year 7 in Bolton.

Lacey-Maria, 10, Llanelli

Bubbly Lacey put her time in lockdown to good use - raising money for charity.

"The worst thing about this pandemic is not being able to see my friends but I have enjoyed shaving my hair off for charity. I cannot wait for this pandemic to be over and go back to normality," she tells ITV News.

Every year the 10-year-old raises money for mental health charities - a cause very close to her family's heart. Her mum is a mental health nurse and tragically, Lacey's dad took his own life three years ago.

Grieving for a parent is incredibly tough, and Lacey finds her dad's birthday in December particularly hard. Her and mum pay tribute by baking a cake for him each year and visiting the grave.

Lacey will take a big step in the coming months; in September she'll be heading to a much bigger school for Year 7 and ITV News will follow her progress along the way.

Faiza, 15, Birmingham

Lockdown has meant that 15-year-old Faiza won't be sitting her GCSE exams this year - but instead will receive teacher-assessed grades.

Despite this disruption, Faiza took many positives out of the lockdown, including taking up new hobbies such as editing and drawing.

She said: "This lockdown hasn't exactly been a bad thing because during this period I got to spend more time with my family which I don't really get to do often. But the best thing has to be realising how many things I take for granted without knowing and just appreciating what I have."

Faiza currently attends a special school as she has a condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (Type 2). It affects her torso and limbs, so she uses an electric wheelchair and needs support with all of her physical care needs.

September will see Faiza head to a mainstream Further Education College who can cater for her physical needs.

"During these next 12 months, I am hoping to improve my confidence and self-belief. The main thing that I'm aiming to do and to learn out of this experience is how to get ready for my next stage in life which is moving on to mainstream college," she said.

Brandan, 24, London

Education has been hit hard across all levels during the pandemic, and university students have missed out on an experience that they pay around £9,000 a year for.

Brandan is due to graduate from the University of East London this summer, with a degree in Media and Communications, but he's struggled to find work.

"It's taken away my university experience and ending that on a high because everything's been online", he told ITV News. "I haven't really got to see my friends and we're all graduating soon so it's a shame that we're not getting to spend that time together."

The pandemic has meant a change in direction for Brandan, who will now take on a Masters in Digital Media at the University of Sussex.

He said: "I'm really excited about continuing my education but also trying to find a job and getting myself prepared for postgraduate life and getting into the world of work."

Theo, 12, Haddenham, Buckinghamshire

Talented footballer Theo had just trialled with a premier league club when the first lockdown hit. This was cancelled before another scout signed him up but unfortunately that was scrapped too after two games, thanks to the second lockdown.

"The low bits of lockdown have been not being able to see my friends, missing the competitiveness of football and missing life how it used to be," he tells ITV News.

The Year 7 pupil is hoping to trial again for another club soon after multiple postponements. He trains with his friend twice a week and does video classes to keep up his training but it's been very difficult, not only starting secondary school, but dealing with the uncertainty of his footballing future.

Theo said: "Over the next 12 months, I hope that Boris will loosen up the rules, life will go back to how it used to be and in the summer I will get to do some football tournaments."

He takes one positive from the lockdowns however: "I don't have to wake up early, get the school bus early or get to school as early as I used to!" Kalisha, Samarah and Majidah from Bermondsey, South East London

Siblings Kalisha, 11, Samarah, 8, and five-year-old Majidah went through an incredibly tough time together during lockdown.

Their dad, Sama Conteh, caught Covid-19 and was in a coma for 61 days.

The 54-year-old psychiatric nurse survived multiple organ failure and at one point doctors were telling his family that he wouldn't make it and they should think about turning his life-support machine off.

Thankfully, Majidah got her birthday wish and her dad recovered in time to celebrate her turning five years old.

Siblings Samarah, 8, and Majidah, 5.

"The worst thing about the pandemic was that I didn't get to see my dad because he had coronavirus", Majidah said. "The best bit of the pandemic is that I got to spend time with my family." Home schooling has been difficult for the sisters together in a small flat while Sama recovered, and mum Amina worked.

"We got to sleep a lot, we got to play loads of games and we got to spend a lot of time off school, which proved to be very difficult after but we were in the heat of the moment," Kalisha explains. The 11-year-old was traumatised by her father's illness and had to step up to help her mother and take on more responsibilities.

She added: "Overall the best thing happened to be when my dad came home on my sister Majidah's birthday and we were all so happy as that was what she wished for."

Her sister Samarah, echoed her words. "The worst bits about the pandemic was that my dad got the virus and that I couldn't see any of my friends," she said. "The best bits was that I had my iPad with my 24/7 and that I got to stay up really late."

Olivia, 12, and Lucia, 8, Leicestershire

Sisters Olivia and Lucia had to deal with the death of a loved one right at the beginning of lockdown. Their grandfather, who they call 'pops', passed away due to Covid in April 2020.

Although it's been a tough time dealing with grief, the sisters were able to still see some friends in school as their mum, Sian, is a nursery nurse.

Olivia said: "Some of the good things that have happened to me during lockdown is I've been able to go to school with my best friends since both of our parents are key workers and I've been able to do online dance lessons."

Both siblings are keen dancers and look forward to taking up lessons again when restrictions allow.

"The worst part (about lockdown) is that my pops died in April from Covid", Lucia tells ITV News. "I'm looking forward to dancing lessons in the studio and seeing more friends and family and watching Leicester matches."

Thyra, 17, Sheffield

A Level student and rugby player Thyra has plenty of plans but feels like a lot is up in the air at the moment. She's accepted an offer to study law at Manchester Metropolitan University - but may choose to defer because of the pandemic.

"The worst part of the pandemic for me is that I've not been able to play rugby properly since March last year and there's just been so much uncertainty around so many different things," she tells ITV News.

Thyra had her driving test cancelled several times and school trips to Zanzibar and Poland were called off too.Will university still be online come September? Will A Level students still need to take exams? Will her leavers' prom still be able to go ahead?

Although Thyra's mental health has suffered during the lockdown, she still sees a "light at the end of the tunnel".

She said: "Lockdown allowed me a lot of time to focus on myself and with that I became a lot more productive with my schoolwork but also general fitness and exercise.

"Hopefully over the next 12 months I will get to play rugby properly again, I will pass my driving test and I will go to university to study law."

Nairn, 25, North Ayrshire

Despite many responsibilities and his own struggles, Nairn has done what he can to "give back" to his local community in Kilwinning.

Since graduating university two years ago, Nairn's mother became ill. A series of mini strokes revealed she had a hole in her heart so he stepped up to become a full-time carer for her and his younger brother Ruairidh who has autism and epilepsy.

Nairn began applying for jobs a few months before the pandemic hit as his mum was making progress - but lockdown has decimated the jobs market particularly in his field - the charity sector.

"The worst part of the pandemic I suppose was the hopelessness, the isolation, the darkness that came from having a pandemic that took so many lives including a family member of mine and not really being able to access the support that so many people need," he says. "I'm an unpaid carer, I'm disabled, I have mental health struggles and I needed that support and that was kind of ripped away from me because of the pandemic and that meant I struggled with my mental health throughout."

A light throughout this dark time for Nairn has been volunteering alongside his younger brother for the council's Covid hub, which he says helped give him "purpose" while battling anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. He told ITV News: "A highlight for the last year for me was probably being able to give something back to my community... that really allowed me to feel like I was doing something in a time where hopelessness was really, really, really an issue."Nairn is looking ahead to the future, however: "I think too much right now is just looking at tomorrow or today. We've got no long term vision because the pandemic has forced us to look closer to home, so I'm hoping that I get a chance to look further afield, to look more at the big picture and to plan and start that plan to get myself on my career path."

Watch the first report in our Class of Covid series on ITV News at Ten on Monday 8 March - and read and watch the latest from the series here.