Children and young people
1) It is acknowledged that school closures are likely to have generally had a negative impact on the wellbeing and development of most children and young people. As schools reopen full-time as planned, or for 'blended learning' if necessary, this will likely impact different age groups in a variety of ways;
2) It is likely that child protection concerns may have arisen during school closures, with reduced or no opportunity for disclosure, particularly for younger children. In these circumstances, and in line with the National and Supplementary National Child Protection Guidance a rights-based, child-centred approach to assessment, intervention, and planning to meet needs will be essential, drawing together support from partners and third sector organisations in order to ensure appropriate support for children and young people.
3) In line with scientific advice received from the COVID-19 Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children's Issues, primary pupils will not need to physically distance from each other.
The scientific advice also made clear that distancing is not required for a safe return to secondary schools. However, as an additional precautionary measure, the guidance on reopening schools says that where possible secondary schools should take practical, proportionate steps to encourage distancing between young people, particularly in the senior phase, provided it does not introduce capacity constraints. This goes beyond the requirements of the scientific advice, and represents an additional measure to minimise risk.
School staff will need to physically distance from each other and, where possible, from children and young people who are not part of the same household. For the majority of staff in schools, personal protective equipment will not be necessary, but guidelines make clear the exceptions to this position.
a) However, physical distancing between all children and young people in schools may be required in the event of a national or local outbreak of the virus. Schools may need to introduce their plans for blended learning or close temporarily to help control transmission.
4) In line with the latest scientific advice, the guidance for the reopening of schools was amended on 25 August 2020 to reflect the advice that face coverings should be worn by adults and young people in secondary schools when moving about the school in corridors and confined communal areas (including toilets), where physical distancing is particularly difficult to maintain. The amended advice also provides that face coverings should be worn by all passengers over the age of five when travelling on dedicated school transport (in addition to the existing requirement for wearing them on public transport).
The use of face coverings in these circumstances should be seen as just one mitigation within a package of measures. The other mitigation measures including physical distancing for adults, environmental cleaning, personal hand and respiratory hygiene, grouping of young people and maintaining distancing between young people in secondary schools where possible, remain vitally important.
a) This amendment to the guidance will impact all school age pupils who are advised to wear masks in communal areas at school, and all who travel by public or dedicated school transport. The increasing use of face coverings in public spaces in wider society is expected to ease this adjustment for most. However, theguidance provides that some individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings. Further information on exemptions can be found in wider Scottish Government guidance. Schools will need to be mindful of and responsive to the potential for bullying of pupils unable to wear a face covering.
5) All pupils may find the transition to the next academic year more challenging than previous years due to missing out on preparation in the summer term. However, those entering key transition years in August 2020, i.e. P1 and S1, may feel that impact most greatly and will be at risk of having missed out on important transition support that previous year groups have received. Transition is key for supporting learning, wellbeing and the development of relationships for pupils with both peers and teachers, and it is recognised that if blended learning were necessary, rather than a full-time return, it would be likely to take longer for pupils to settle into new routines and settings.
a) As part of the Educational Continuity Direction, schools were able to be opened for the purposes of supporting the transition of pupils into P1, S1 and for other pupils who would benefit from enhanced transition, including those with additional support needs. Guidance on continuity in learning supported education authorities and schools in preparing for transitions - in a different way - during the pandemic.
b) Where pupils may have missed out on transition visits, schools are expected to consider mapping and signage to support pupils with familiarisation. This should be considered in the context of different age groups and special consideration should be given to pupils with Additional Support Needs.
Senior phase pupils
6) Pupils who were due to sit national qualification exams in summer 2020 have missed out on that opportunity. There is anecdotal reporting from stakeholders that this has resulted in a sense of loss and a negative emotional impact.
a) The cancellation of the exam diet was unavoidable due to the pandemic and the risks to public health. SQA has worked with the wider education system to deliver an alternative certification approach to replace the planned summer 2020 exam diet. The SQA has based its approach on the core principles of ensuring fairness to all learners, the safe and secure certification of qualifications, and maintaining the integrity and credibility of our qualifications system. The SQA has been clear that it will publish further detail underpinning its approach and the impact of any moderation it has had to make to estimates on results day, and in advance of that they have engaged with the education system, parents and young people. It has also committed to fulfilling its obligations to complete and publish an Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) on its approach.
7) Pupils who are due to sit national qualification exams in 2021 will understandably be nervous about the reduced in-school learning they will have received during school closures and any impacts from further necessary disruption.
The Lockdown Lockdown survey, conducted by the Scottish Youth Parliament, YouthLink Scotland and Young Scot, found that around half of 2,418 respondents stated they are moderately or extremely concerned about exams and coursework.
a) The framework for reopening schools made clear that planning for the 2021 examination diet is under way, and we will ensure that further guidance is in place for when schools return on 11 August. Consideration is being given to slightly delaying the 2021 exam diet to ensure full learning and teaching entitlements for senior phase candidates are met. We are also considering any other flexibilities and contingencies that may need to be in place to accommodate prevailing public health advice.
b) Education Scotland is expanding its partnership with eSgoil to develop a strong national e-learning provision. During lock-down, Education Scotland produced resources to support pupils and teachers with home learning.
c) If blended learning is required, schools are encouraged to use additional available space as classroom space, where safe to do so, in order to maximise the amount of face-to-face teaching that pupils receive.
8) Pupils transitioning to a new stage may find it harder to adapt, including those starting college and university, with a different learning environment.
The Lockdown Lowdown survey also found that two-thirds of respondents are moderately or extremely concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on their future.
a) Transition arrangements for all children and young people returning to school or moving into new learning environments such as college or university, will require careful planning and consideration. Guidance on transitions may be found in Coronavirus (COVID-19): support for continuity in learning guidance.
Clinically vulnerable and extremely clinically vulnerable pupils may have a health condition which would be considered as a disability.
9) In the context of both a full-time reopening of schools and if blended learning is necessary, pupils who are clinically vulnerable or extremely clinically vulnerable (broadly those with pre-existing conditions), should continue to adhere to the latest medical advice on whether or not to attend a school setting. We expect all children, young people and staff who are shielding to be able to return to school in August, unless given advice from a GP or healthcare provider not to. There is further information available at https://www.mygov.scot/coronavirus-if-you-need-to-stay-at-home/.
a) There will be some pupils whose health prevents them from returning to school settings. In these circumstances appropriate provision should be made for remote learning pursuant to local circumstances. School leaders should continue to support these pupils to ensure they have the same opportunities to learn as their peers in line with statutory responsibilities to provide education elsewhere than a school for children unable to attend school due to ill health.
b) There will be some pupils for whom health reasons may prevent them from being able to wear a face covering in environments where others are recommended to do so. Schools should remain mindful of this, and may wish to consult wider Scottish Government guidance on exemptions.
10) If physical distancing measures are introduced to school settings, it is possible that some school buildings may be reconfigured to allow for one-way systems or similar.
a) In these circumstances, access to all areas of the school building should remain as accessible as they previously have been, including for those with physical disabilities or accessibility issues. Special consideration should be given where schools may be making use of outdoor space as learning areas, and risk assessments should be completed as appropriate. Access to toilets and regular handwashing facilities should naturally be considered within this.
Additional support needs (ASN)
11) Pupils with additional support needs have had to adapt to a changed learning environment, whether at home or through attendance at an education hub or specialist setting. Many will require individual transition support for their return to school. Whilst there are anecdotal reports of some pupils, including some with ASN or anxiety, finding benefits to home learning, many will be missing out on the additional support that they receive when in school. Some pupils with ASN may also find changes to routine more challenging than their peers, which could be emphasised if blended learning were introduced. It should also be recognised that some children and young people will have new needs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
a) The emotional wellbeing of our most vulnerable children and young people as they re-connect with learning will require careful planning, including discussion with them and their parents and carers. Simply attending any formal provision will be a challenge for some. A first step will be to review plans, including co-ordinated support plans, to ensure that planned approaches build upon and recognise any additional needs which have arisen. In planning these approaches, engagement with parents and carers, as well as the children and young people themselves will be key. Support may be drawn from other partners such as Social Work Services, Allied Health Professionals, agencies such as Skills Development Scotland, and third sector organisations. This process should take into account communication of routine changes where appropriate.
b) Local authorities will need to consider support for children with ASN using school transport, and take appropriate actions to reduce risk if hygiene rules and physical distancing is not possible.
c) It should be acknowledged that, for some learners with ASN, the wearing of face coverings may not be appropriate or could be a cause of anxiety or discomfort. Schools should remain mindful of this, and may wish to consult wider Scottish Government guidance on exemptions.
12) When staff or young people are wearing face coverings in school this may cause communication difficulties for pupils who depend on facial expressions or lip reading to communicate, for example Deaf learners and those with a hearing impairment.
a) Guidance will point to the increasing use of transparent face coverings as one way of mitigating any negative impacts in these circumstances. It will also be important that instructions around the wearing, removal and disposal of face coverings are made clear for all pupils and staff, including those with additional support needs.
13) A higher proportion of girls than boys achieved the expected Curriculum for Excellence levels across both literacy and numeracy and all stages. In 2018-19, the largest difference in performance at primary was in writing in P7, with girls outperforming boys by 15 percentage points. The smallest differences at primary for the literacy organisers were in reading and listening and talking for P1, at six percentage points each.
14) School leaver attainment figures show females are continuing to outperform males at SCQF Levels 4 to 6 or better with the gap being wider at higher SCQF levels. In 2018/19, the gap between females and males achieving one pass or more at SCQF Level 4 or better was 1.4 percentage points, with this gap growing to 4.9 percentage points at SCQF Level 5 or better, and further widening to 12.3 percentage points at SCQF Level 6 or better.
15) There is a risk that this gap could have widened as a result of school closures, and that it may increase further if blended learning were required.
16) We see evidence of gender segregation in participation in different subjects in the senior phase at school with, for example, females more likely to take up subjects such as languages and males tending to take up subjects such as computing. This gender segregation persists in courses in further and higher education and in apprenticeships and in the labour market and leads to women's poorer labour market outcomes, gendered pay inequality, and the gender pay gap. We do not know if gender segregation in subjects and the sexist bullying and harassment which can contribute to this segregation will have been exacerbated in the context of home learning and lockdown or not.
a) Education Scotland's Improving Gender Balance and Equalities Programme is helping practitioners and school leaders tackle gender segregation and its underlying causes through learning and teaching and whole school approaches. A literature review of the key issues has been published at https://education.gov.scot/media/as0hl3fz/sci38-igb-a-literature-review.pdf, and resources for practitioners and sector specific action guides are https://education.gov.scot/improvement/learning-resources/Improving%20gender%20balance%203-18.
17) A central focus of the guidance for reopening schools is to support and nurture children and young people's health and wellbeing as they return to school. It is widely recognised and acknowledged that the period of school closures and lockdown will have increased impacts on mental health and wellbeing. A number of resources, in addition to the guidance for reopening schools, have been made available through the National Improvement Hub or through online Wakelets for schools. 
18) Almost 4000 children took part in the Children's Parliament's How are you doing? survey in April and May 2020. Across all areas there was a small but noticeable decline in the wellbeing of children. This was particularly true for girls, and especially for girls aged 12-14.
19) It is known that some risks to children and young people will have increased during the pandemic and that risks increase as a result of school closure, and that it is expected that there will be a rise in the experience of domestic abuse, which typically affects more girls than boys.
20) We know that it is important for young women to have access to period products, and pupils have welcomed the Scottish Government's initiative to make period products available for free in schools, colleges and universities.
a) The Scottish Government continued to fund access to free period products during lockdown and asked local authorities to make alternative arrangements to ensure products could still be accessed. Products were made available to take home in the last few days of school before COVID-enforced closure, in some places there was provision of products in food boxes, and products were accessible via schools that remained open and community hubs. Some local authorities put in place home delivery options through Hey Girls and in one area products could be collected for free from a number of local convenience stores.
21) Young people who are transitioning may benefit from pastoral support from school, which may not be available as a result of school closure and therefore may negatively impact their wellbeing. Additionally, transgender young people may regard school as a place of safety, which would be unavailable during school closure or a blended learning model. The return to school full-time will enable the resumption of this pastoral support to pupils in due course.
22) The Online in Lockdown Report indicated that 26% of young people responding to the survey saw prejudice-based posts, comments, attitudes online since the lockdown began which related to transphobia.
Pregnancy and maternity
Support for pregnant pupils and young parents
23) Pupils who experience pregnancy and parenthood whilst at school should receive additional support to be able to continue to attend school. These measures are unlikely to have been able to continue during school closure - this also applies to pregnancies that might have occurred during school closure of which schools might be unaware of. It may be challenging for schools to continue to provide the right support to young pregnant pupils and young parents at school age. Regular contact with school is likely to be reduced if blended learning is necessary, and this could lead to poor engagement or even a disengagement from education among this group of pupils. This could have a profound long-term impact on, not only young people's health and wellbeing, but also their socio-economic circumstances.
24) While a return to school on full-time basis could restore the support this group of young people need, careful consideration should be given to pregnant pupils who might be at higher risk. As the evidence around the impact of COVID-19 on pregnant women is still evolving at this point in time, it is important that all pregnant pupils should follow medical advice on whether or not to attend a school setting. It is also advised that an individual risk assessment should be conducted for all pregnant young women returning to school. Additionally, lead professionals and parent(s) of a pupil (if appropriate), should be involved to help decide how school should continue to best support them.
25) According to 2019 data, 78% of Scotland's pupil population is from a White (Scottish) ethnicity, while 12% have a White (other) ethnicity and 8% are from a non-White Minority Ethnic (ME) group. There is evidence to suggest that COVID-19 impacts disproportionately on South Asian communities in Scotland, however there is not sufficient data to say whether the same applies to other ME groups.
26) Discourse in the media and on social media during the COVID-19 crisis has included narratives which could contribute to racist bullying. Schools should be aware of the increased risk of racist incidents or bullying against particular groups of children, as well as the possible impact on the mental wellbeing of ME pupils.
27) 1,015 young people from across Scotland took part in a survey issued by the Time for Inclusive Education Campaign during the period of lockdown. The survey explored the impact of lockdown on young people's emotional wellbeing, as well as the rates of online bullying and online prejudice during the lockdown period. Overall, the survey found that instances of online bullying increased during the lockdown period, and young people reported witnessing more online prejudice than usual - the most common forms of which were racism and homophobia.
a) Schools will want to consider how learning and teaching in the curriculum and whole school approaches can help all pupils develop an awareness and understanding of human rights and equality with a specific emphasis on race, both now and in Scotland's past.
b) Respect for All: The National Approach to Anti-bullying for Scotland's Children and Young People provides the overarching framework for all adults working with children and young people. A resource is also available that was prepared on behalf of the Scottish Government by the Coalition of Racial Equality and Rights (CRER) on effectively challenging racist bullying in schools in line with 'Respect for All'
28) Pupils who speak English as an additional language risk being disproportionately affected by school closures and limited classroom time if blended learning is required due to the impact on their proficiency of the English language, particularly if English is not their main home language. 2019 data shows that 9.6% of the pupil population have a language other than English as their main home language.
a) Given the guidance that staff and young people should wear face coverings in school in certain circumstances, schools may wish to consider the use of see-through face coverings in order to support pupils with English as an additional language who may be dependent upon visual clues or lip-reading for communication.
Religion or belief
29) If physical distancing were to be required, to enable it to be implemented, many schools may need to use non-classroom spaces as teaching space. Where rooms are potentially being repurposed, it should be ensured that provision remains available for pupils to access religious spaces for religious observance, spiritual development or reflection time.
30) Denominational schools are defined by their religious ethos which permeates through the life and culture of the school. School closures have negatively impacted upon denominational schools' ability to support pupils' spiritual development via participation in religious practices and religious education. Timetable constraints may continue if blended learning is implemented.
31) The closure of denominational schools may also have delayed some pupils' faith journey, for example, preparation for the Sacraments in Catholic schools is likely to have been negatively affected and so some pupils and families may require additional support with this when returning to school.
32) Restrictions around large group gatherings may impact upon religious practices and celebrations.
33) 36% of young people who responded to an online survey indicated that they had seen prejudiced based posts, comments or attitudes online related to homophobia. 52% of LGBT+ young people described their emotional wellbeing as being negative due to being away from their place of education. These findings were published in the Online in Lockdown Report.
Marriage & civil partnership
34) There is a risk that throughout school closures some pupils may experience enforced marriage.
a) The Children Missing from Education guidance and resources supports local authorities in dealing with cases where children are not attending school.
b) The National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland provides a framework for agencies and practitioners at local level to agree processes for working together to safeguard and promote child wellbeing. This will be supplemented by guidance for Chief Officers, professional leaders in children's services and child protection committees, who should ensure it is taken account of within local partnerships.
35) Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence Levels by SIMD for 2018-19 shows a pre-COVID poverty-related attainment gap between pupils in least and most deprived areas. For primary school pupils, the gaps were 17.1 percentage points for Reading, 19.1 for Writing, 13.0 for Listening and Talking, 20.7 for Literacy and 16.8 for Numeracy. At S3, the gap was 11.5 percentage points for Reading, 12.2 for Writing, 10.0 for Listening and Talking, 13.8 for Literacy and 13.5 for Numeracy.
36) All children may experience some loss of learning. Children from more affluent homes are more likely to have greater access to home schooling facilities and materials, and to have parents who can assist, to offset lost instruction time (London School of Economics - Centre for Economic Performance).
37) Similarly, a report published earlier in June 2020 by the Education Endowment Foundation on best evidence of impact of school closures on the attainment gap included key findings such as:
- School closures are likely to reverse progress made to close the gap in the last decade since 2011;
- Supporting effective remote learning will mitigate the extent to which the gap widens;
- Sustained support will be needed to help disadvantaged pupils catch up.
38) Children from more affluent households across the UK are more than twice as likely to have had more than £100 spent on their education since the lockdown (19% of middle-class children verses 8% of working class). Almost 1 in 10 children have had £150 spent on their education at home, and just under a quarter of children have had £50 spent on them.
39) The numbers of children receiving private tuition have gone down, with 8% of children stopping tuition and only 4% taking it up. However, use of online tuition is growing among better off households (Sutton Trust - School Closures: Parent Polling).
a) Throughout lockdown school hubs have been open with places available for vulnerable children and young people. Pupils attending these will also have had access to school resources.
40) We know that for those affected by poverty and disadvantage, free school meals are a vital measure for families, children and young people across the country and that it is essential to ensure that children and young people continue to have access to nutritious food during the COVID-19 pandemic. Access to healthy and nutritious school meals is essential, given the clear benefits for pupils' learning and health. Free school meals provide much-needed support and assistance, saving families, on average, £400 a child, per year.
a) To mitigate the potential effect of COVID-19 to pupils and families who rely on free school meals, the Scottish Government and local authorities worked to provide free school meals whilst schools were closed. This was supported by £15m of funding from the Scottish Government Food Fund to support families unable to access food as a result of COVID-19. This has meant more than 175,000 families have been reached with a free school provision Monday to Friday. These have been provided through direct payments, vouchers, delivery and provision of food directly, including to those attending hubs. In recognition that families need for this support will continue as the pandemic continues during the summer month and before the return to school, the Scottish Government has agreed to provide a further £12.7m to support local authorities to continue these arrangements. When schools reopen local authorities will be expected to continue to provide free school meals to all eligible children and young people. £15m in funding has also been provided to local authorities to support wider food support in households up to the end of September.
41) We know that it is important for young women to have access to period products, and pupils have welcomed the Scottish Government's initiative to make period products available for free in schools, colleges and universities.
a) Where payments were made to families in lieu of free school meals, £5 was added monthly where pupils are also eligible for period products. Where students are eligible for free school meals, food for the whole family was delivered to the door and these packs also included other essential such as period products.
42) We know that people affected by poverty are more likely to be at risk of illness or death from COVID-19. Therefore pupils from lower socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to have experienced illness or bereavement during school closures. Schools should follow existing guidance on supporting pupils in these circumstances.
43) School closures have also meant the closure of youth, sports and other community facilities that may have previously taken place after the school day. This is expected to have had a negative impact on the wellbeing of children and young people, particularly in community schools and for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
a) School leaders should work with a range of youth work partners to explore what is possible within their school and community.
44) The cost of learning in lockdown, a June 2020 report by Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland (CPAG) showed that families with access to resources such as Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams and Show my Homework amongst others, were grateful for the continued tasks, ideas, learning and support from schools that this enabled.
45) However, some pupils may be disadvantaged in comparison to their peers through not having access to digital devices, particularly younger children who are more likely to have to share devices with other members of the household. Through accessing the internet, pupils are able to access learning resources, as well as interact with school staff and peers. This is applicable to the period of school closures from March 2020, and will continue to apply if blended learning were to be introduced. In 2018, the ONS reported that 12% of those aged between 11 and 18 years in the UK (700,000) reported having no internet access at home from a computer or tablet, while a further 60,000 reported having no home internet access at all.
a) To help ensure as many children and young people as possible are able to connect with their schools, continue their learning, access support and engage with their peers, we are investing an initial £9m that will provide devices and connectivity for 25,000 learners across Scotland. We are committed to delivering digital equity for our most disadvantaged children and young people and this is the first phase of our £30m commitment to support digital inclusion for children and young people. We are working closely with local authority partners to deliver this. A separate impact assessment is being developed specific to this area of policy, and will be published in due course.
46) In line with the latest scientific advice, the guidance for the reopening of schools has been amended to reflect the advice that face coverings should be worn by adults and young people in confined communal areas, and by all over the age of five when travelling by public or school transport. Whilst it is reasonable to assume that most children and young people will have access to re-usable face coverings due to their increasing use in wider society, some may not have access to face coverings or be able to arrange for them to be regularly cleaned.
a) Where anybody is struggling to access a face covering, or where they are unable to use their face covering due to having forgotten it or it having become soiled/unsafe, schools should take steps to ensure they have a contingency supply to meet such needs.
b) Schools should take steps to minimise any stigma that may become attached to the use of school-provided face coverings, and deal effectively with any associated bullying.
47) Without adequate transport links to and from an island and between islands, the island community will be in a disadvantaged position compared to similar mainland communities and islands have been heavily impacted due to the required capacity restrictions on transport to ensure public safety as a result of COVID-19. Transport links within an island or from island to island have also been affected and the potential remains for restrictions and/or limitations to be reintroduced, thereby affecting school transport.
a) The updated Reopening Schools Guidance recognises the particular challenges for island communities in relation to school transport and advises local authorities to explore options with local operators, to inform what pattern and location for in-school learning may be practicable in the immediate term.
48) Digital connectivity is a key enabler for education in general, particularly in Scotland's more remote, rural and island areas. The importance of this has been magnified through the requirement for home schooling owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to be critical in the event of any future requirements for a blended learning approach. The National Islands Plan recognises that access to good quality digital infrastructure for all is essential to improving the educational outcomes for children and young people on the islands, and good digital connectivity is increasingly vital for education.
Gaelic medium education
49) In 2019 there were 4,631 learners in the GME sector. In the same year there were 541 learners with Gaelic (Scots) as their main home language23. Therefore we can assume that a majority of GME learners do not speak Gaelic at home, and consequently school closures will have had a negative impact on the language development of these pupils, particularly younger pupils who may not yet be confident engaging with the written language independently. Therefore, catch-up for GME pupils will need to consider language support as well as curriculum support.
50) Throughout school closures, and into the future if blended learning were to be required, all pupils will be dependent on digital resources for some of their learning whilst at home. GME pupils will naturally require resources to be available in Gaelic.
a) All local authorities have been offered grant funding for devices and connectivity as part of our £25m investment to tackle digital exclusion.
b) There are a variety of online resources available to GME pupils to support with language development and immersion learning through Storlànn, E-Sgoil, e-Storas, Education Scotland and BBC ALBA. To provide further support while home learning is taking place Storlànn has recently extended its site to support parents as well as learners and teachers. Also, Bòrd na Gàidhlig has been working with a range of organisations to develop new online facilities, including 'Cleachd i aig an taigh' ('Using Gaelic in the home').
51) In Gaelic medium education (GME) transitions between early years, primary and secondary and specifically between Secondary BGE and Senior Phase may present additional challenges that could be detrimental to pupil numbers, which will need to be carefully monitored.
Further to the supportive work undertaken by Education Scotland and at local authority level, a number of Gaelic bodies have significant potential to strengthen and broaden language acquisition and this is very important in GME. These bodies have worked with GME schools and classes for some time and have a contribution to make in any back to school arrangements.