Publication - FOI/EIR release

Education concerns: FOI release

Published: 6 Aug 2020

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Published:
6 Aug 2020
Education concerns: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202000053550
Date received: 16 Jun 2020
Date responded: 14 Jul 2020
Information requested

'Reopening of schools and provision of education to children during the coronavirus outbreak, you indicated: I’d like to make a freedom of information request about whether the government has actually done a gender equality assessment relating to this policy in Scotland and in East Dunbartonshire.'

Response

You may be aware that all Scottish public authorities are duty bound, in line with the Equality Act 2010, to assess the impact of new or revised policies, practices or services against the requirements of the public sector equality duty, using an Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA). The impact of a policy is assessed against the 8 protected characteristics as set out in the Act (age, disability, sex, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, gender reassignment and pregnancy and maternity). Under the protected characteristic of sex, the impact of a policy on men and women is considered.

We have therefore understood your request as relating to any EQIA or similar assessment carried out in relation to the provision of education to children during the coronavirus outbreak.
Information already accessible: Some of the information you have requested is now available on the Scottish Government website:

  • On 21 May the Strategic Framework for reopening schools and early learning and childcare settings was published. Due to the emergency nature of this work, a full EQIA was not able to be developed to the standard we would aspire to in the time prior to publication, and therefore an Initial Impact Assessment was published outlining our commitment to developing these documents in full and the areas to be considered. The Initial Impact Assessment can be found here.
  • On 21 May we also published Coronavirus (COVID-19): Scotland’s route map through and out of the crisis. This document indicates the order in which restrictions will carefully and gradually be changed, including for education. A full EQIA and Fairer Scotland Assessment has been completed in line with this work and can be found here. Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you experience any difficulty in obtaining this information from the website, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.

An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test:
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because an exemption under section 27(1) of FOISA applies. Under section 27(1) of FOISA we are not required to provide information in response to a request if that information is held with a view to its publication within 12 weeks. A full EQIA on the Strategic Framework for Reopening Schools and ELC settings is being prepared – and currently exists in draft form. We intend to publish the final version of this within 12 weeks of the date of your request. We consider that it is reasonable to withhold the information until that time, rather than release a draft version before the planned publication date.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there would be some public interest in releasing the EQIA in draft form, in terms of our commitment to openness and transparency and to inform public debate. However, we consider that there is a greater public interest in taking the time necessary to fully develop the document before releasing a version of it into the public domain.

Information specifically about East Dunbartonshire:
In your request you specifically ask about any impact assessments which have been carried out regarding the equality impacts of the Scottish Government’s policy in East Dunbartonshire. The published documents and the draft EQIA which is being developed are of course pertinent to East Dunbartonshire, as to all other areas of Scotland. However, we have not carried out any similar work looking at impacts in East Dunbartonshire specifically. You may wish to consider contacting East Dunbartonshire Council for any information about work which might have been undertaken locally to assess equalities impacts in relation to the provision of education during the coronavirus outbreak and the reopening of schools in East Dunbartonshire. You can email the Council’s Freedom of Information team at: foi@eastdunbarton.gov.uk. Further information can be found on the Freedom of Information page of the Council’s website: https://www.eastdunbarton.gov.uk/residents/council-democracy/freedom-information 

We understand these are uniquely challenging times for the whole of our society, and that it is a very difficult time for children and their families, including for the many doing their best to balance work with looking after their children. 
In your email you refer to the ongoing impact of home learning on both children and families, and I believe this is linked to the Government' s Strategic Framework for Reopening Schools, Early Learning and Childcare Provision in Scotland, which sets out plans for blended learning to take place from the start of the next academic year. This would allow for pupils to split their time between learning in school, and learning at home, whilst allowing for physical distancing to be maintained. 

However, as the scientific evidence and advice continues to evolve, the Government continues to reassess its approach to recovery. You may be aware that the Deputy First Minister announced on 23rd June that due to the sustained downward trend in COVID-19 infections across Scotland, we are now planning for almost all pupils to return to school full-time from August. This will continue to depend on scientific advice, as the government continues to prioritise health and safety of pupils, families and the education workforce, but it allows for the blended learning model referenced above, to become the contingency plan. It is expected that a full-time return to school for almost all pupils would bring many positive impacts for children and families, including allowing parents to return to previous working patterns, and an expected positive impact on the wellbeing of children and young people.

In the meantime, Education Scotland and the Scottish Government continue to support parents, children, young people and school staff in a variety of ways:

  • Guidance from Education Scotland provides links to a range of resources that are available through the national online learning environment, Glow.
  • As part of the announcements on easing lockdown and the phased reopening of schools, the First Minister announced on 21st May an investment of £30 million to support digital inclusion for disadvantaged learners. Orders have been place for an initial 25,000 devices at a cost of £9 million. A further round of investment will be made and we are working closely with local authorities on the second phase of this work.
  • Additional monies have been made available to Local Authorities to support their work.
  • Pupil Equity Funding, the funding at the heart of Scottish Government’s ambition of closing the poverty related attainment gap, of over £250 million has been allocated to schools to support families.
  • In addition to the announcement on schools, The Scottish Government has announced the planned reopening of early years childcare provision in July; we hope this will enable families to plan for and manage childcare requirements.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG