As Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, I am acutely conscious of the impact the pandemic has had on our education system, the communities it serves and the people who work in it.
The unavoidable closure of education settings at the height of the crisis has reinforced to all of us what a critical role our schools, early learning and childcare settings and universities and colleges play in our society.
The dedication and innovation that our education professionals have shown – and continue to so do on a daily basis - to support children and young people during the pandemic has been truly inspirational, and I thank them sincerely for their efforts.
However, we know that some learners will have suffered adverse consequences, whether in terms of their health and wellbeing or their attainment. The pandemic has continued to bring into sharp focus some of the inequalities that persist in our education system, as has been the case in countries all over the world.
I am determined that those impacts will be addressed, and that every child and young person in Scotland will have the opportunity to fulfil their potential as they progress through the education system and on to positive destinations.
We have been working to protect children and young people from the worst impacts of Covid-19, and to support them to recover where they have been affected, from the outset of the pandemic. This document sets out the action we and our partners in the education system have taken to date, and some key next steps in the coming period to support our learners to achieve their goals in life.
The Scottish Government cannot deliver on these ambitions alone. A wide range of valued partners will play critical roles in doing so at all levels of the education system. I am grateful to them for their support, and for all they are doing to understand and address the needs of each individual child and young person in Scotland.
Nor can the impacts of the pandemic on our children and young people be addressed by the education system alone. Our focus on education recovery is one part of our strategic approach to recovery from COVID, and must be closely aligned to our work on wider issues, which are set out in the Scottish Government's 'Covid Recovery Strategy for a Fairer Scotland'. This strategy identifies three key outcomes as most likely to have the greatest impact on tackling the inequality and disadvantage highlighted by Covid: financial security for low income households; wellbeing of children and young people; and good, green jobs and fair work. Each of these is, of course, inextricably linked to our own agenda within education.
The pandemic is not over. We know how unpredictable the virus can be. As we take forward the next steps set out in this document we will continue to monitor the evidence, prepare for a range of scenarios with our partners, and adapt our approach where necessary as part of our wider strategic response to Covid recovery.
Whatever may transpire, I remain determined to maintain a focus on excellence and equity for all our children and young people, and I am confident that the actions and next steps we set out here will help us achieve that.
Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills