The closure of all schools has impacted across the workforce, and on children and young people. It has also negatively impacted on parents, particularly mothers, who are required to juggle child care, home schooling, and paid work.
The initial stages provided for school staff to return to schools and increased the number of children accessing critical childcare provision. It also signalled that transition support should be made available to P1 and S1 students, where possible.
Throughout the summer term only critical provision remained in place for the children of keyworkers and children identified as more vulnerable. Negative impacts were therefore identified for children and young people not attending school hubs because of the loss of learning and experiences school typically provides, including the opportunity to associate with their peers. Negative impacts were also identified for some children not accessing critical provision for whom their school setting was a place of safety and consistency, where home does not present the same stability.
Many schools moved learning on-line for the remainder of the academic year 2019/20 to mitigate impacts for children and young people where possible. However, evidence shows that disabled children, those with additional support needs, and those who are socio-economically disadvantaged, remained negatively impacted because they may not have had the same range of resources and parental support for home learning.
Evidence suggests that children and young people will experience poorer mental health and wellbeing and are likely to experience anxiety as they prepare to return to school. Other wellbeing impacts may also have occurred, including increased exposure to domestic abuse, and potentially increased child protection concerns. While there have been efforts to mitigate these impacts (for example, vulnerable children have continued to have the opportunity to attend school in person throughout the summer term; free school meals have been continued through the school summer holidays until August) it is likely that long-term impacts will remain.
School closures have highlighted digital inequity across Scotland and its impact on children and young people's ability to access learning resources and interact with peers. As part of efforts to address this gap ahead of the academic year 2020-21, devices and data are being made available to socio-economically disadvantaged and care-experienced children to ensure they can participate in home learning if required. This is expected to be beneficial to all pupils in receipt of a device beyond COVID-19, as it will also support in levelling out digital inequity across the country.
Women are particularly impacted because they comprise the majority of the education workforce. For women who are also parents, a return to school will require them to juggle work with caring responsibilities. In addition, evidence shows that as women in society tend to be the primary carers, mothers have experienced a much harder time balancing work and caring, which could have long term impacts on gender equality in the workforce. The extended household may help lone parents if they previously used this type of relationship to obtain additional support.