In his monthly column former principal of Hereford Sixth Form College, Dr Jonathan Godfrey OBE talks about the health and economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic for pupils.

He says: "THE Resolution Foundation has recently suggested that unemployment among economically active 18 to 29-year-olds could hit 17 per cent by late 2020, and issued a warning over the mental health risks linked to lockdown and economic insecurity.

The proportion of adults experiencing poor mental health has increased by 80 per cent among 18 to 29-year-olds compared with a year ago, the biggest increase of any age group.

In a career devoted to preparing young people for the future I have never been more depressed about the prospects which await them owing to the pandemic and the longer-term, even more existential threat of global warming.

Perhaps the best representation of despair in the face of the futility of human effort is Durer’s engraving Melancolia of 1514.

A young woman, the personification of melancholy, sits brooding, head resting on her hand surrounded by abandoned objects associated with science – a sphere, polyhedron, construction tools.

Symbols of wealth such as a purse lie discarded and she holds in one hand, apparently of no use, a pair of compasses.

A ladder in the background leads nowhere, reflecting the futility of endeavour and the scales of justice hang deserted.

But it is Shakespeare who best voices the despair arising from a loss of confidence in humanism and the uncertainty of an afterlife.

"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

"How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable, seem to me all the uses of this world!

"'Tis an unweeded garden that grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature possess it merely. That it should come to this!"

But most apposite for today, at the end of King Lear – "The weight of this sad time we must obey, speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. The oldest hath borne most. We that are young shall never see so much, nor live so long."