South Devon College students have taken part in special workshops to give their thoughts and messages on Covid

Young people and students have become a national focus in the fight against COVID-19, with blame for the increase in infection rates attributed to the younger generation. But is this fair?

Torbay Council’s Local Employment Outbreak Engagement Board was set up to engage with local employers to find new ways to control the spread of the virus. As a member of the Board, South Devon College Vice Principal People & Resources, Kelly Sooben, offered that staff could work with students at the college to develop new messaging to engage young people, but also to give them an opportunity to have their voices heard.

Working alongside Public Health England, Torbay Council, Torbay Weekly Editor Jim Parker and the team at Sound Communities, a suite of communications is now in development.

Teams at South Devon College worked together, with support from Torbay Weekly to organise focus groups with students aged 14-18.

Students felt young people are wrongly blamed. There has been a significant rise in cases amongst education settings, but it’s important for students to be going to school.

Students felt that social distancing rules released by the Government could be confusing. The conversation seamlessly transitioned to their feeling of personal responsibility. The groups felt that in some cases young people were wrongly blamed or presented as uncaring, which isn’t generally the case.

The general consensus was that whilst young people’s health has a lower chance of being at risk, their family’s health would more likely be at risk. This led students to talk about what it is their parents do for a living, whether it was running a shop in town or working as a nurse in Torbay Hospital. The knock-on effect of catching the virus and passing it on was a worse prospect than just catching the virus,

There was also a strong sense that the younger generation could benefit from a reminder that following the rules and helping to control the virus would lessen the impact on their everyday lives.

The final communications will be displayed on posters across Torbay, routes into the College Campus in Paignton and on College online platforms as well as in the Torbay Weekly.