The Scottish Government has published an equity audit that examines the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The audit was undertaken as part of Protecting Scotland, Renewing Scotland: the 2020-21 Programme for Government, and covers material extracted between 23 March and 1 September 2020.
While the government recognises that a longer strategy is needed to help address the pandemic’s impact on vulnerable children and their families, the report is to help shape areas of focus to accelerate recovery.
Impact of school buildings closures
It focused particularly on the impact of the school building closures from 20 March 2020 to the early stages of re-opening of schools on 11 August 2020. The report also examined evidence of actions to re-open schools to all pupils in August, and to keep them safe, open and welcoming with a focus on health and wellbeing.
The key themes that emerged were:
- Health and wellbeing support
- Digital infrastructure and connectivity
- Support to parents and families
- Teacher provision and the quality of learning
- Support for teachers and the wider workforce.
The report stated that children and young people said they missed the social aspect of school and the daily interaction with friends and teachers. Socioeconomically disadvantaged children and young people were potentially most affected by access to technology (devices and connectivity) and that effective communication was the key to ongoing support for parents and families.
Differences between higher and lower income backgrounds
Evidence has highlighted the differences in terms of the teaching provision experienced by children and young people from higher and lower income backgrounds, and for staff, digital skills and training remains the focus for continued professional learning.
The audit adds that the role of the third sector was highlighted as important in a briefing by Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland (Chapman et al, 2020 b) where they noted that communication between local authorities and individual third sector organisations was important when the school buildings were closed.
The adaptability apparent in how third sector organisations ‘tailored their offers and ways of working accordingly, in the same way that schools have’ was reported as a strength. The briefings also noted that there was a ‘need to involve the wider sector in strategic planning’ going forward. They go on to suggest that ‘drawing on these cross-sector perspectives and experience could support the development of blended models of learning where both face to face and virtual delivery will be required’.
The audit report further highlights the communities where new poverty has emerged thanks to the pandemic and the impact of rural poverty; however, little specific evidence could be found in the time period covered and these two areas will be the subject of future research.
You can download the full report on the Scottish Government’s website.
This article is reproduced with permission from the Network for Social and Educational Equity