2. Impact of Covid and Data Quality
The COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020 by the World Health Organisation, during the 2019-20 academic year. During the first national lockdown, Scottish schools and colleges were closed and learning was moved online where possible. These changes had an impact on how some EMA payments were administered and recorded by schools and local authorities. The school data recorded in this release includes only payments made via the SEEMiS system. During the pandemic period, some school staff no longer had access to SEEMiS to authorise payments, so the payments were made directly. As such, the 2019-20 spend reported here will be lower than the actual spend on EMA in that period. In addition, some local authorities have confirmed they suspended the requirement for confirmation of attendance during lockdown periods, meaning that all eligible recipients received payments. As a result, where these payments were made via SEEMiS, they are higher than would be expected in comparison with previous years.
For the reasons listed above, data for 2019-20 should not be compared to other years and will be shown as a break in any time series within figures and tables in this report.
The 2020-21 academic year saw continued COVID-19 related challenges for both schools and colleges with closures, online learning and reduced attendance at various points through the year. Data covering this year is also likely to be impacted by the issues highlighted above.
Due to the impact of COVID on EMAs and the time series, these data are being published as Official Statistics, rather than National Statistics. This approach was agreed with the Chief Statistician for Scotland and the Director General for Regulation at the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR). Further details of this change is included on the OSR website:
The data should be treated with caution when interpreting results. It is inadvisable to compare data across the COVID-19 period, from 2018-19 to 2020-21. The commentary below concentrates on the 2020-21 data with no time series comparisons, however the long-term trends can be seen in the charts. The data is sufficiently consistent to provide various breakdowns including age, gender and deprivation.
Further information on the data is included in Annex A.
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