Phrases such as ‘catch up’ can harm pupils returning to school, Dr Alex George tells MPs

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The use of phrases including “lost generation” and “catch-up” may be “damaging” to young people, the UK government’s youth mental health ambassador has told MPs.

A&E doctor and Love Island star Dr Alex George said “we must steer away from that language” as it makes young people even more concerned about their futures post-pandemic.

These comments came as England’s new children’s commissioner explained how she is “absolutely determined” to ensure that children do not become the “lost generation” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

A £1.7 billion fund has been made available by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to help children “catch-up,” having faced huge disruption and school closures over the past year.

Dr George urged ministers to be more cautious in the language they use to describe learning disruption. Speaking to the education select committee, he went on to say how he had raised his worries about such messaging with Number 10.

The doctor explained how he felt phrases like “lost generation” and “catch-up” have the potential to be hugely “damaging to young people.”

He added: “They do listen, they see the media, they see social media, and I just wonder where that leaves young people feeling like they are left? ‘Well if I don’t catch up then what am I?’

“And I’ve actually had that echoed in messages across social media to myself – a lot of concern from young people saying: ‘Am I part of this lost generation? What does that mean for our futures?”

The chairman of the education select committee, Robert Halfon, admitted that MPs have been using the words often and called it a “lesson for all of us.”

Dr George said that a focus on wellbeing was “vital” for children, adding: “Just like giving children time to form their social groups and again trying to bring that focus on wellbeing as a whole.”

He also called for school exclusions to be “stopped for now.”

The former Love Island contestant, who was made youth mental health ambassador last month, told MPs that the stigma around mental health must be addressed.

Dr George added: “My brother took his life six months or so ago and he never spoke to anyone, or reached out, or told anyone that he was struggling.”

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