School Closed sign on a locked gate

By our Founder Jane Kenyon

We need schools to stay open, end of.  The mental health crisis our teenage girls are in the thick of is unacceptable and far from being a safe place home is a war zone for many.  

The stats around depression and anxiety, eating disorders, self-harming, sexual assault, grooming and neglect were scary enough pre COVID but let’s not be in denial about the impact of 9 months of lockdown and the ongoing pandemic restrictions – the disruption to their lives, the loneliness, the fear, the confusion, the isolation and the loss of normality is unprecedented and if we don’t’ get a grip, the effects could last for the next decade.

Just image what it is like to simply lose nearly a full academic year of learning and development – Will they ever catch up? And what if they don’t?

And if you are still in any doubt of the need to keep our schools open…

Consider these facts….

  1. During the Pandemic North West Police have seen a 75% increase in child abuse
  2. Grooming offences are now 9 times higher than the pre lockdown average
  3. The number of explicit, abusive images circulating on the internet via webcams and live streaming has tripled in lockdown
  4. 1 in 3 young people have been bullied online during lockdown
  5. Explicit texts sent by children rose by 183% in the first lockdown
  6. Calls to ChildLine are up by 40%
  7. Smartphone use is fuelling a record demand for sleeping pills for under 16’s. In the past 4 years prescriptions have increased by 43% with children as young as 10 being the main users.

Girls are spending too much time online and taking too many risks due to boredom and no supervision and boys are obsessed with YouTube and gaming technology platforms and at risk of being groomed and radicalised by extreme misogynistic groups. One of my Christmas reads was Men Who Hate Women by the very courageous and smart Laura Bates.  To say it was It was an eye opener is an understatement and it explained why we are seeing a shift in the attitudes of young boys towards girls. 

And if you are still not convinced – The Education Endowment Foundation released figures in November 2020 confirming in the past 8 months we have reversed a decade of work on social mobility. The gap between rich and poor just keeps getting wider, on our watch.

Do I need to say any more?  We need to keep schools open so we can support our young people in this time of uncertainty and confusion. They need structure, their friends, and an education.  Many vulnerable teenage girls need Girls Out Loud to support them, to empower them, to nurture them and to inspire them to be the women of gumption we need to carry the baton into the future.

And finally, we now know more teens lose their life to suicide than COVID, so let’s get this show on the road and open the gates.