Publication - Impact assessment

Coronavirus (COVID-19): impact of school building closures - equity audit

Published: 13 Jan 2021
From:
Deputy First Minister
Directorate:
Learning Directorate
Part of:
Coronavirus in Scotland, Education
ISBN:
9781800044920

The report includes a synthesis of key local, national and international literature, supplemented with local evidence gathered from 54 schools across Scotland. The findings help deepen our understanding of the impact the pandemic has had on children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): impact of school building closures - equity audit
Section 2 - Phase 1 - Rapid Evidence Review

Section 2 - Phase 1 - Rapid Evidence Review

2.1 Approach

Phase 1 was led by Scottish Government Learning Analysis Social Researchers within Educational Analytical Services (EAS), and included a team comprised of Education Scotland Attainment Advisors, HM Inspectors and the Scottish Attainment Challenge Academic Advisor.

A short-term working group was established to support the implementation of Phase 1 towards the following objective:

To prepare and publish a collated report, that will provide an overview of the impact of the lockdown on children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The aims of the evidence review were to:

  • Investigate key issues around the impact of school buildings closures on educational experiences in the context of pupils’ social and economic background, including a focus on those areas where there is little empirical evidence such as rural and communities where there is new poverty emerging, including the impact on health and wellbeing.
  • Provide an understanding emerging from existing national, UK and international evidence of the impact on educational attainment experienced by children and young people during the school buildings closures/remote learning, and of policy and practice approaches which may mitigate the impact on disadvantaged learners.

The Key Inquiry question was:

What does the existing research and wider evidence suggest has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the educational experiences and attainment of children and young people and in particular those children and young people affected by poverty?

Sub questions were:

  • What has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on educational experiences and attainment – for all children and young people and in particular for children and young people affected by poverty?
  • What evidence is there from children and young people’s perspective/voice and in particular on the voice of children and young people whose educational experiences and attainment are affected by the poverty-related attainment gap, on the impacts of school building closures and move to remote learning?
  • What policy and practice responses have education systems developed during the COVID-19 pandemic specifically to address children and young people whose educational experiences and attainment are affected by the poverty-related attainment gap and what does the emerging research/evidence base suggest has been the impact of policy and practice responses?
  • What factors are emerging which are associated with mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on children and young whose educational experiences and attainment are affected by the poverty-related attainment gap?

2.2 Emerging themes

This section consists of the following six areas of exploration:

I. The impact of COVID-19 on educational experiences

II. The impact of COVID-19 on educational attainment

III. International policy context

IV. International practice responses

V. Recovery – Re-opening schools – Mitigation factors

VI. Addressing inequality in education post COVID-19: recommendations arising from the literature

I. The impact of COVID-19 on educational experiences

Overview

International evidence reviewed to date[2] points to the emergence of considerable differences between the educational and learning experiences of pupils from more and less advantaged backgrounds. Whilst educational concerns are widespread, as revealed for example by surveys of parents and of pupils themselves, a range of differences in the learning experiences between these two groups are suggested by the literature.

Emerging themes

There are differences regarding teaching time experienced and amount of time spent on home learning between pupils from more and less advantaged backgrounds

This includes evidence pointing to differences between higher and lower income families in terms of time spent on home learning. A survey by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) of over 4,000 parents in England undertaken in April-May 2020 found that, at that time, children from better-off families were spending 30 per cent more time on home learning than were those from poorer families (Andrew et al, 2020a). A UK-wide survey of 4,000 parents in late April 2020 by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) found that time spent by pupils on school work varied by parental income and education levels, with pupils from higher-income households/parents with higher levels of education having increased opportunity to engage in online learning, however there is no evidence of the impact of this (NFER, 2020[3]). The Sutton Trust, reporting on the June 2020 findings of its survey series around the impact of COVID-19 on learning (in England), found that time spent each day learning at home during COVID-19 school building closures was significantly related to family income with those from more affluent families reporting more time spent studying (Cullinane and Montacute, 2020).

There are considerable differences in remote teaching provision experienced by children and young people, with variation in experience for children and young people from more and less advantaged backgrounds a factor amongst others (such as variation by age and sector)

As well as time differences, the evidence highlights emerging differences in terms of the teaching provision experienced by children and young people from higher and lower income backgrounds. For example, analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) showed higher income parents in England were much more likely to report provision of online classes/video-conferencing with teachers for their children (Andrew et al, 2020a,b). Similarly, research by the Sutton Trust pointed to variances in remote teaching provision and activities undertaken by teachers during the school day between schools in more or less affluent areas in England (Cullinane and Montacute, 2020).

A series of reports for the European Commission suggest in reflections based on existing literature and recent international datasets that students from more advantaged backgrounds may be more likely to attend schools with better information and communication technology (ICT) based infrastructure and where teachers have higher levels of digital skills (Pietro et al, 2020).

Considerable differences in access to resources to support home learning in relation to children and young people from more and less advantaged backgrounds

There is a considerable body of evidence emerging related to a digital divide (e.g. Fawcett Society, 2020) and associated commentary (e.g. Kirkcaldy, 2020). A survey of 1,000 front line workers across the UK (including Scotland) to assess the impact on families living in poverty (undertaken in June 2020 at the time lockdown started easing) identified lack of access to electronic equipment and internet as a key barrier to home learning for children who were in receipt of frontline support (Buttle UK, 2020). Similarly, the Sutton Trust reported on teachers from more and less deprived schools in England highlighting differences in access to electronic devices and internet access (Cullinane and Montacute, 2020).

Whilst digital disadvantage emerges strongly as a theme from the evidence other differences in terms of access to resources are also important to highlight, including access to adequate space, and parental support for learning. For example, the IFS found better-off students in England had access to more resources for home learning (IFS, 2020). Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) research indicated that children who spent time on home learning but who lack proper resources, such as a quiet space to study and parental guidance, will likely learn less, even if they spend more time on school work (Bayrakdar and Guveli, 2020). The Buttle UK study of frontline workers reported on a number of factors which impacted on children’s experiences, such as lack of access to basics, chaotic home environments and parent mental health problems (Buttle UK, 2020).

The Childhood Trust study of the consequences of COVID-19 for children living in poverty in London reported findings that students affected by poverty would have significantly fewer resources, limited access to technology/internet, restricted supervision and guidance, and an unstable working environment (Childhood Trust, 2020). The National Literacy Trust reported that children and young people’s access to a quiet space to work, read and relax at home varied by socio-economic disadvantage. A national literacy survey, undertaken in March and May/June 2020 found 68 per cent of children and young people in receipt of free school meals reported having access to such spaces compared to 75 per cent of their peers (Clark and Picton, 2020).

Research by the Child Poverty Action Group[4] (CPAG) has highlighted lack of access to resources as a key concern for pupils from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds (CPAG, 2020a). Scottish survey results from CPAG have showed respondents from low-income families were twice as likely to report lacking all the resources they needed to support home learning. 40 per cent of respondents reported the lack of at least one essential resource. Low-income families were also more likely to have had to buy educational resources compared to those in better off homes, with parents who were worried about their financial circumstances more likely to have bought educational resources for their children (CPAG, 2020b).

Differences associated with children and young people’s concerns about home learning with variations related to socio-economic factors

Children and young people’s concerns about home learning are evidenced in the literature reviewed. A key Scottish evidence source on pupils’ concerns regarding educational experiences is the ‘Lockdown Lowdown’[5] survey by Scottish Youth Parliament, Youth Link Scotland and Young Scot of over 2,000 young people regarding their concerns about COVID-19, including consideration of educational impacts. Forty two per cent of survey respondents stated that they were ‘moderately’ or ‘extremely’ concerned about school, college and university closures, and 49 per cent stated that they were ‘moderately’ or ‘extremely’ concerned about exams and coursework (Scottish Youth Parliament, Youth Link Scotland and Young Scot, 2020a). Socio-demographic differentials in pupils’ concerns regarding education is also emerging from the evidence (Scottish Youth Parliament, Youth Link Scotland and Young Scot, 2020b).

Differences associated with parents’ concerns about supporting home learning, with variations related to socio-economic factors

Parental concerns about supporting home learning have been highlighted across a range of evidence sources. The evidence suggests that concerns exist for parents across both primary and secondary sectors. For example, the IFS reported struggles supporting home learning was experienced by parents of both primary and secondary school pupils (Andrew et al, 2020a,b).

There is a complex picture emerging in relation to parental engagement/involvement and concerns about supporting home learning. There is evidence emerging indicating differences between lower- and higher- income parents’ concerns about supporting home- learning. For example, lower-income parents responding to the CPAG survey in Scotland were more likely to say they found it difficult to continue their children’s education at home than those in better off households (CPAG, 2020b).

Despite evidence of concern about supporting home learning from lower-income parents, a UK-wide survey of 4,000 parents in late April 2020 found parents from lower-income families were spending most time supporting their children with school work (NFER, 2020).

Whilst a range of studies have reported to date on numerous aspects of educational experiences during the pandemic, and how these have varied on the basis of different measures of disadvantage, the evidence overall suggests a range of factors which are associated with inequality of educational experiences. The IFS has suggested that school building closures are almost certain to increase educational inequalities, concluding that, whatever the governmental strategy for re-opening schools, there is a risk that it will increase inequalities (Andrew et al, 2020a). Policy and practice, and mitigations which may help to reduce educational inequalities which have emerged as a result of the pandemic, will be considered in the later section.

Mental health and educational experiences

A further category of emerging literature relates to the COVID-19 school building closures and mental health. This points to concerns raised by young people themselves which suggest differences related to socio-economic disadvantage as well as concerns raised by parents. Teachers cited disadvantage as a factor which had an impact on the mental health of their pupils during the COVID-19 related disruption of education.

In terms of young people’s concerns regarding mental health and education, the Lockdown Lowdown survey found that young people were concerned about their mental health, exams and coursework and their future, with almost two fifths of young people who responded to the survey indicating that they felt moderately or extremely concerned about their mental health. Young people also indicated a lack of confidence in accessing information on mental health. Young people in the most deprived areas were slightly more concerned about the mental health and wellbeing of others (family, friends) than those in less deprived areas, whilst young people in less deprived areas were more concerned about educational outcomes and social relationships than those in the most deprived areas (Scottish Youth Parliament, Young Scot and Youthlink Scotland, 2020b).

The concern teachers have for the mental as well as physical wellbeing of children is highlighted in a UK wide study by Lundie and Law (2020). They found over one third of teachers expected many more of their children to be labelled ‘at risk’ or have interventions from social services by the end of the lockdown, and this rose to around two-thirds for teachers working with more deprived populations. This study concluded that teachers did not feel adequately prepared to meet the emotional and behavioural needs of children in the online environment (Lundie and Law, 2020). Similarly, a Barnardo’s report of school staff findings highlighted a range of concerns experienced by teachers in the UK including:

  • 88 per cent of staff surveyed thought the COVID-19 crisis would affect the mental health of their pupils;
  • 82 per cent thought the COVID-19 crisis had impacted on their/their school's ability to support mental health and wellbeing needs of their pupils;
  • 62 per cent thought they needed additional funding for mental health;
  • 67 per cent thought that changes in the curriculum structure and exams process would help them support children and young people's wellbeing;
  • 26 per cent were not confident their school had the tools, resources/skills needed to support children and young people on their return to school (Barnardo’s, 2020).

The Childhood Trust report on the adverse impacts of the pandemic on vulnerable children and young people in London highlighted children and young people’s views on mental health with worries about school building closures, loss of routine, loss of social interaction and anxiety around the future all prevalent. This study also found young carers to be at risk of developing mental health problems due to the increased amounts of time spent/demands of caring. The study highlighted concerns related to mental health services delivered online for socio-economically disadvantaged children and young people due to lack of access to resources such as digital, personal and private space (Childhood Trust, 2020).

The National Parent Forum of Scotland (2020) provides evidence on parents’ and carers’ perspectives. They found that the main concern voiced by parents and carers had been the impact lockdown and school building closures were having on children and young people, and the importance of looking after their children’s mental health and wellbeing. Many parents and carers were worried about the isolation experienced by their children due to constrained opportunities for socialising. Parents and carers expressed concerns about their children’s social skills, motivation and transitions to school. Parents wanted teachers to prioritise health and wellbeing when schools returned (NPFS, 2020).

Intersections of poverty-related disadvantage and other pupil characteristics

The literature review highlights specific issues relevant to the intersection of poverty-related disadvantage and other disadvantages in terms of educational experiences during school building closures as a result of COVID-19. This includes a range of issues affecting vulnerable children and young people (including care-experienced young people), children and young people with additional support needs/special educational needs and Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) children and young people during the time of school building closures. This has not been covered in detail by this evidence review, and therefore the evidence outlined below is indicative rather than comprehensive. The Scottish Government is publishing regular briefings on evidence from Scotland and the UK on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the wellbeing of children, young people and families, including those with vulnerabilities and those experiencing disadvantage or discrimination. See for example.[6]

One key emerging issue relates to levels of need, and potentially of changing boundaries for families described as vulnerable. A series of research papers by Children’s Neighbourhood Scotland[7] specifically looked at the impact of COVID-19, finding that the boundaries for families being described as vulnerable have blurred and there is an increase in the level of need (Chapman et al, 2020 a). The third sector is identified as providing holistic support to families and mobilizing to meet this need this quickly.(Chapman et al, 2020 b). The papers also provide some evidence of the experiences of children who were attending ‘childcare hubs’ during the lockdown phase. The Hubs focus on childcare, with creative solutions to engage the children and young people is linked to higher than expected levels of engagement, and the paper suggests an opportunity to consider the design of the curriculum to incorporate new or different learning opportunities . (Chapman et al, 2020 c).

The National Youth Agency reported in June 2020 that school building closures most significantly impacted on vulnerable children and young people and that the nature of the return to school in September may continue to disadvantage them. They argued that youth work organisations can play a crucial role in supporting disadvantaged students by helping them develop skills, resilience and the social networks required to thrive on their return to school (National Youth Agency, June 2020).

In their third report as one element of a larger research project focusing on schools’ responses to COVID-19, NFER reported their findings of a national survey involving senior leaders and teachers in England in May 2020. This included an exploration of the support made available for vulnerable pupils (e.g. Social Work involvement)[8]. They found a lack of engagement from vulnerable pupils and their parents, with about 15 per cent attending school during the crisis. Many of those attending school had as good, or better, supported learning than those being educated remotely, although 29 per cent of schools reported that their main approach was providing non-curriculum-based activities. Remote learning for vulnerable children and young people tended to be less IT focused in more deprived schools and also in primary schools. Three quarters of schools were providing welfare support which reportedly might become unsustainable as schools fully reopen (NFER, 2020).

Parents of children with additional support needs are reported as struggling with the change in routine for their children (NPFS, 2020).

One Scottish-specific study of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) young people pointed to concerns of intersectional disadvantage. The Intercultural Youth Scotland (IYS) survey report suggested that from analysis of sixty-two responses from BAME young people, 75 per cent expressed difficulties in continuing their learning outwith the classroom environment. The study reported perceptions about teacher estimates and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) moderation process, highlighting concerns about intersectional disadvantage. It also reports short-term and longer-term recommendations for Scottish education to mitigate the disadvantages for BAME young people (IYS, 2020).

Children’s voice

There is an emerging evidence base on children’s voice, including the voice of children and young people whose educational experiences and attainment are affected by the poverty-related attainment gap. Young peoples’ learning experiences of school building closures, remote learning and their concerns are all indicated across the literature and have been referenced within this review where available. Whilst some studies seek the views of children and young people more generally, a number provide analysis specifically on the views of children and young people affected by poverty.

The majority of evidence available to date is based on surveys undertaken with pupils, such as Lockdown Lowdown and CPAG. Fewer of these surveys were of a qualitative nature. Further qualitative research on children’s voice will be an important factor to consider going forward as this emerges in order to learn from the in-depth lived experiences of children and young people affected by socio-economic disadvantage during the period of school buildings closures due to COVID-19.

II. The impact of COVID-19 on educational attainment

Overview

The evidence reviewed to date highlights the potential for impacts on attainment and achievement for all children and young people, as well as evidence of exacerbated impacts for those from more socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, pointing to increased inequality of educational attainment[9] as a result of COVID-19 school building closures.

Context

Learning from pre-COVID-19 evidence of educational attainment

The evidence on impact of the school building closures and move to remote learning as a result of COVID-19 includes a considerable volume of material which refers to data collected based on previous closures, not least of estimations impacts on educational attainment during school holidays (see, for example the rapid evidence review undertaken by Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), 2020). The Royal Society’s DELVE Initiative, drawing on evidence up to July 2020, has provided a detailed examination of impacts on educational attainment from previous research. This review suggests that the impact on educational attainment is likely to be greater for younger children, that lower skills will be likely to lead to lower earning and nationwide lack of growth, and that ‘learning loss’ will vary depending on what schools/parents have been able to provide (Royal Society, 2020).

Whilst recognising pre-COVID-19 literature as useful context, research relating to the impact of school building closures and remote learning on educational attainment prior to the pandemic is beyond the scope of this evidence review. A number of sources provide thorough coverage of this material, including the EEF rapid evidence review and the Royal Society DELVE Initiative review indicated above. Additionally, there are potentially caveats regarding the extent to which research evidence of impacts on educational attainment prior to COVID-19 serves as a proxy for the specific nature of the school building closures due to COVID-19.

Existing evidence on the poverty-related attainment gap

Evidence on the extent of progress on closing the poverty-related attainment gap pre-COVID-19 also provides important context. For example, the Education Policy Institute’s (EPI) 2020 annual report on the state of education in England including the disadvantage gap (published in August 2020) reported a stalling of closing the attainment gap for the first time in a decade, predating the impact of COVID-19. Disadvantaged pupils in England were reportedly 18.1 months of learning behind their more advantaged peers by the time of finishing GCSEs, mirroring the gap of five years ago; and the attainment gap in primary was reported to have increased for the first time since 2007. An increasing proportion of disadvantaged pupils in persistent poverty was suggested as contributing to lack of progress on narrowing the gap (EPI, 2020).

The pre-COVID-19 evidence from Scotland suggests the continuing challenge of addressing the poverty-related attainment gap. The Scottish Government’s third interim evaluation report of the Attainment Scotland Fund which covered the 2018/19 academic year, indicated that whilst there is some progress in closing the attainment gap on a number of National Improvement Framework (NIF) attainment measures, this is a varied picture depending on the measure under consideration. The report concludes that ‘overall, quantitative measures of the attainment gap do not yet show a consistent pattern of improvement’ (Scottish Government, 2020) .

Global projections of impact of COVID-19 on educational attainment

At a global level, much of the literature points to concerns regarding an increasing poverty-related educational divide as a result of the pandemic. In its May 2020 briefing, the World Bank stated that the global pandemic will worsen the educational divide, further threatening progress towards an already considerable gap for meeting Sustainable Development Goal 4 (World Bank, 2020a). A series of simulations looking at the impact of COVID-19 undertaken by the World Bank in June 2020 provided projections that almost seven million pupils would drop out of schooling due to the ‘income shock’ of COVID-19, indicating that the global cost of ‘learning loss’ could be $10 trillion with an estimated 25 per cent increase in the number of lower-secondary aged pupils globally below minimum levels of proficiency (World Bank, 2020b).

Similarly, an August policy briefing from the United Nations (UN) stated that COVID-19 has impacted upon 94 per cent of the world’s learners, and 99 per cent of those in low and lower-middle income countries (UN, 2020).

Evidence on the impact of school building closures on children’s learning

Impacts on pupils overall

In terms of the impact of school building closures on pupils’ learning overall, there is a considerable body of evidence which has emerged to date. This includes analysis by the Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) which considered the impact of school building closures on pupils’ learning, with the best available evidence from the economics of education indicating that school building closures would be likely to impact on pupil achievement. The analysis also highlighted the considerable costs of addressing this (Eyles et al, 2020).

Impacts on socio-economically disadvantaged pupils

A number of studies have been undertaken which specifically consider the impact of COVID-19 school building closures on socio-economically disadvantaged pupils. Evidence reviewed to date highlights impacts on attainment for all pupils, as well as evidence of exacerbated impacts for pupils from more socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. This points to increased inequality of educational attainment as a result of COVID-19 school building closures. Analysis for the European Commission found that pupils from less socio-economically advantaged backgrounds are likely to experience a larger decline in learning compared to their more advantaged counterparts, with the suggestion that such increased inequality may persist over time (Pietro et al, 2020).

A detailed analysis of Flemish school data was undertaken to investigate ‘learning loss’ (impacts on educational attainment) in Belgium. This pointed to school building closures resulting in significant learning losses and a substantial increase in educational inequality. This study found that schools with greater proportions of better-off pupils suffered less learning losses than schools with a larger share of disadvantaged pupils (Leuven Economics of Education Research, 2020).

At the UK level, several key reports have provided a synopsis of the estimated impact of COVID-19 on attainment for socio-economically disadvantaged pupils. The Childhood Trust’s June 2020 study ‘Children in lockdown: the consequences of the coronavirus crisis for children living in poverty (in London)’, reported that the combined impact of ‘summer learning loss’ and learning missed during school building closures may affect younger children more, with children from lower income families usually more adversely affected. (Childhood Trust, 2020).

Using data gathered during Understanding Society April 2020 wave, Pensiero et al conclude that the transition from face to face learning to remote learning (home and online) is likely to generate an ‘educational loss’. Using data from Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study, they estimate that the loss will be more pronounced for children from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. In their conclusion they suggest that: ‘The transition to distance schooling is likely to exacerbate inequalities by socio-economic groups due to both the socio-economic gap in the volume of schoolwork completed and to the relative ability or inability of some parents to support children’s learning’. (Pensiero et al, 2020)

The evidence base suggests potential longer-term impacts of differential access to resources. For example, the Centre for Economic Performance analysis of the impact of school building closures on children's learning reported children from more socio-economically advantaged backgrounds attending schools where technology is in place to substitute for classroom teaching, and whose parents have both the time and skills to ‘plug the deficit’, are likely to be less adversely affected. This analysis also points to concerns for more socio-economically disadvantaged children being particularly affected if they are at key transition points (Major and Machin, 2020).

A key study by the (ISER) at the University of Essex on inequalities in home learning and schools’ provision of distance teaching during school building closures of the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK found that children who were spending time on home learning but who lacked resources, such as a quiet space to study, and parental guidance, would be likely to learn less, even if they spent more time on schoolwork (Bayrakdar and Guveli, 2020).

Data from the Equity Literacy Institute (ELI) suggested that socio-economically deprived children were more likely to have home responsibilities during the day, affecting their learning. This research suggest socio-economically disadvantaged pupils are disproportionally affected by the transition to online learning and will continue to be marginalised after the crisis (ELI, 2020).

III. International policy context

Policy context at global level

This section sets out policy responses developed during the COVID-19 pandemic to specifically address socio-economically disadvantaged learners. Schools across the globe closed their doors to pupils in March 2020 when countries went into lockdown with an estimated 85 per cent of pupils worldwide out of school from over 180 countries in early April 2020 (World Bank, 2020a). Education systems had to quickly adapt to the changing circumstances and move lessons online. Remote learning was put in place to ensure children and young people could continue their education for the duration of the lockdown and school building closures.

Frameworks developed globally to take cognisance of the needs of socio-economically disadvantaged learners

Unicef, in partnership with the UN, World Bank, and the World Food Programme published a Framework for Re-opening Schools in April 2020 (Unicef, 2020), providing international guidance and recommendations on re-opening schools. The framework outlines actions at three phases (prior to re-opening, as part of the re-opening process, and when schools are re-opened), with strong recognition of the need to take account of the needs of disadvantaged or marginalised learners. For example, the framework highlights the need to:

‘Implement large-scale remedial programs to mitigate learning loss and prevent exacerbation of learning inequality after school closures, with a focus on literacy and numeracy for primary-age children.’ (Unicef, 2020).

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published its framework to guide and support countries developing appropriate responses to education during the pandemic, drawing considerably from insights from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018 to inform the policy response to school building closures (OECD, 2020b). The insights from PISA 2018 provided an analysis of provision of and access to online learning/digital platforms from the perspective of both learners and teachers. The data used was collected as part of the global PISA assessment in 2018, based on representative samples from 79 education systems involving over 600,000 15-year-olds. This analysis of PISA provided insights on learner access to internet and digital devices, highlighting both considerable disparities amongst countries, as well as disparities between more and less socio-economically disadvantaged learners within countries. For example, in respondent UK secondary schools over 70 per cent of more socio-economically advantaged learners were reported to have access to online learning platforms, contrasting with just over 40 per cent of less advantaged learners who had access to online learning platforms (OECD, 2020b). Teacher preparedness and use of technology also emerged as factors which varied between more and less advantaged schools. Insights from PISA 2018 led to the following key conclusion in the OECD framework:

‘…most education systems need to pay close attention to ensure that technology does not amplify existing inequalities in access and quality of learning further. This is not only a matter of providing access to technology and open learning resources, but will also require maintaining effective social relationships between families, teachers and students, particularly for those students who lack the resilience, learning strategies or engagement to learn on their own. Technology can amplify the work of great teachers, but it will not replace them’ (OECD, 2020b).

The UN published its policy brief ‘Education during Covid-19 and beyond’ in August 2020, highlighting that the impact is not only educational but affects many other policy spheres including nutrition, the ability of parents to work, and risks of violence against females (UN, 2020). Policy recommendations suggested by the United Nations include:

  • thorough planning for school re-opening;
  • protection of educational budgets and focus on co-ordination to maximise impact;
  • development of resilient, equitable and sustainable educational systems;
  • ‘re-imagination’ of education; and,
  • acceleration of changes in learning and teaching (UN, 2020).
Policy context – UK

At a UK level, a recent Education Policy Institute report documented the educational policy responses of the UK Government, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive across the period of March to July 2020 (Sibieta and Cottell, 2020[10]). Whilst the report did not attempt to provide an evaluation of the policies, but rather to document the policy responses made, it did point to challenges in responding to the needs of pupils affected by poverty-related disadvantage across the four nations. It concluded:

‘All four nations faced significant challenges in aiding disadvantaged pupils. This includes areas where policymakers could provide some support, such as replacements for free meals and digital devices. But it will also include areas where there is little they could do, such as a lack of quiet study space. All the evidence suggests significant inequalities in access to home and online learning. It must therefore be a priority for all policymakers to assess just how much further disadvantaged pupils have fallen behind and to provide appropriate and targeted catch-up support’ (Sibieta and Cottell, 2020).

IV. International practice responses

There is emerging literature related to developing practice in education systems in response to the COVID-19 school building closures, much of which relates to practices regarding implementation of effective remote learning during school building closures and planning for schools re-opening. Remote learning, referring to children and young people learning at home and blended learning where children and young people learn part of the week at school and part of the week at home will be discussed. There is also a consideration of the literature relating to schools re-opening.

Key themes that are prominent in the literature on practice responses include:

  • challenges involved in moving to online/remote or blended models of teaching;
  • challenges in adapting tasks to the online environment;
  • the lack of peer support for teachers;
  • lack of peer interaction for pupils which is identified as motivation for learning; and
  • variation in availability of technology (connectivity and hardware) for pupils, with socio-economically disadvantaged pupils being most affected.

Evidence on practice responses will be considered from a number of different education systems where possible. Much of the literature is generic rather than specific to socio-economically disadvantaged pupils.

Online/Remote Learning

Initially practice responses to online/remote learning developed as a result of policy responses for the education sector designed to curb the spread of COVID-19. The closure of school buildings and the move to remote learning occurred in most countries facing spread of the virus. The evidence points to the development of strategies to improve the efficacy of remote learning models during the lockdown period with varied responses evident internationally.

Various papers suggest ways that remote learning can be tailored, adapted and improved. For example, Aguilar (2020) provides criteria for evaluating resources in times of emergency distance learning. Aguilar notes that educational institutions in the USA largely transitioned to online learning as a result of state and local policies designed to help curb the spread of COVID-19. In response, informative twitter threads about pedagogy, blog posts outlining best practices for transitioning online, and new websites were created to help educators adjust to the transition.

A recent review of remote teaching conducted by the EEF found that remote learning can be effective, given the right conditions (EEF, 2020). Whilst utilising pre-COVID-19 findings, from the available evidence it identified that pupils are able to learn through remote teaching with access to technology being of high importance particularly for children who may be already disadvantaged. There was a need to support learners to be able to work independently. For children experiencing challenges with self-regulation, they would benefit from more detailed support through, for example, daily plans or checklists. In his published academic article Morgan (2020) outlined that socio-economic disadvantage greatly impacts on access to online learning and health and wellbeing.

Ensuring consistent access to internet and computers was also highlighted by the US Economic Institute Report (Garcia and Weiss, 2020), suggesting the importance of this access for effective learning. Teachers receiving targeted training and supports for online instruction also improves effective online learning for pupils. As a result of these requirements for effectiveness being largely absent for many, Garcia et al note that remote education during the pandemic has hindered teaching practice and effective learning. They highlight that ‘crisis-induced delivery of home schooling’ often meant that much of the learning did not take account of planning that had been in place for children’s learning styles and circumstances.

Research on learning at home shows that it works well for students for whom intentional, personalised, and sufficient resources are available. Reduced learning time has likely impeded student learning and also affected the development of the whole child. This study highlighted the need to support children least prepared for home learning to mitigate against them becoming disengaged (Garcia and Weiss, 2020).

The critical role of leadership in times of crisis is highlighted in Fernandez et al (2020) who commented on leadership best practices for navigating unpredictable adaptive challenges in American schools. The authors recommend that academic leaders should distribute leadership responsibilities to a network of teams throughout the organisation to improve the quality of the decisions made in crisis resolution. Leaders should also communicate clearly and frequently to all stakeholders through a variety of communication channels.

The role of teachers and students in regulating individual and group learning and how remote and online learning impacts this, is explored in MacMahon et al (2020) which presents an academic evaluation of resources for students, teachers and parents to support effective online collaborative learning. In a classroom, the teacher and other students play an important role in regulating individual and group learning. However, the sudden shift to remote and online learning has created a social disconnect, making these immediate regulatory supports less accessible.

The study identified the need for strategies to support collaborative learning regulation when learning remotely and online. A set of ten student resources were developed, accompanied by supporting information and strategies for teachers and families. These resources have been shared with schools across Australia. Drawing on models of self-, co- and socially-shared learning regulation, a series of resources were developed for students, teachers and parents to support effective online collaborative learning. These strategies embedded evidence-based principles of learning drawn from the learning sciences. Evidence based remote learning strategies are valuable in encouraging student connection and collaboration. Based on the science of learning, these strategies are original in bringing together effective learning techniques with forms of learning regulation to encourage student connection and collaboration in online and remote learning.

Blended Learning

Some countries looked at the prospect of blended learning, where schools would reopen and accommodate a portion of pupils at points, while the rest continued their studies at home. Whilst planning for blended learning was put in place in Scotland, schools returned full time in August 2020. The literature highlights the benefits blended learning can have for pupils but also the concerns educators have on this.

Blended learning approaches can have positive benefits based on the combination of remote learning with traditional face–to-face teaching and social interaction for learners. Kayalar (2020) discusses the importance and positive effects of a ‘Blended Learning Approach’ during the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide. Positive effects were listed as students’ motivation, communication, interaction and academic success. The report concludes that a blended learning approach encourages teachers and students to reach their educational targets during exceptional situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blended learning provided teachers with the opportunity to gain help from other colleagues and cultivate their expertise by fostering communities of practice. Murai et al (2020) identify the benefits of help from colleagues in a study of a blended professional development programme for teachers in Japan, focusing on computer programming education. It details the benefits of the application of creative learning principles within blended teacher professional development on integration of computer programming education into elementary and middle school classrooms.

A systematic review of evidence identifying best approaches to remote and blended learning by the EEF (2020) highlighted teaching quality as more important than how lessons are delivered. The review also noted the following benefits:

  • ensuring access to technology is key, particularly for children and young people affected by socio-economic disadvantage;
  • peer interactions can provide motivation and improve learning outcomes;
  • supporting pupils to work independently can improve learning outcomes; and
  • different approaches to remote learning suit different tasks and types of content.

Blended learning can be less effective for technology education where the impact of inequitable access to technology at home and lack of hands-on support can affect student motivation and engagement. Concerns related to how teachers can adequately support learning with varying access to tools, material and resources amongst students is discussed by Code et al (2020). The paper explores how technology education teachers see emergency remote teaching transitions to blended learning into the next academic year affecting their profession. Through qualitative interviews with teaching staff the paper explored teacher’s perceptions of emergency remote teaching. The analysis suggested that the move to blended learning impacted on teachers’ ability to support the hands-on development of competencies due to inequitable student access to tools, materials and resources, all of which affected student motivation and engagement. As a result, teachers raised questions about the overall effectiveness of online learning approaches if only offered online.

Technology management, support from management, increased student awareness of e-learning systems and a high level of information technology from instructors are all influential factors for e-learning during COVID-19. A study from Saudi Arabia looked at the efficacy of different e-learning systems (Alqahtani et al, 2020) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through qualitative interviews they provide an analysis of e-learning managerial perspectives. Among the five e-learning learning systems, blended learning was the most suitable learning system to practice. These results demonstrated that, regardless of how sophisticated the technology is in an educational institution, the readiness of e-learning implementation played a large role in boosting the educational process during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teachers

The role of teachers in delivering online/remote and blended learning models of teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic is key, with the ability to plan properly to meet a range of educational needs, peer support and issues related to teacher wellbeing and responding to a changing environment all highlighted in the literature.

The literature highlighted the need for teacher support and training, particularly with the use of online platforms with the EEF review (2020) suggesting that in addition to providing access to technology, it is crucial that teachers and pupils are provided with support and guidance to use specific platforms, particularly if new forms of technology are being implemented.

Teachers are likely to need support and training in how to deliver content online, an online survey of teachers in the UK found. The survey found that this was particularly relevant for teachers in the schools in areas of greatest socio-economic disadvantage, whose teachers currently feel the least able to deliver teaching in this way (Cullinane and Montacute, 2020). Similarly Lucas et al’s (2020) report on the independent assessment undertaken by NFER (2020) using a survey for primary and secondary schools in England, reports that teachers are concerned about the engagement of all their disadvantaged pupils, but are most concerned about low engagement from pupils with limited access to IT and/or those who lack study space. The quality of the home working environment was an issue for around 20 per cent of the teachers who responded to the survey.

The difficulties teachers face in delivering education remotely were highlighted in an Education Institute in Scotland (EIS) Survey conducted with headteachers and depute headteachers seven weeks into school building closures. The survey asked participants about the challenges of delivering education remotely, teacher wellbeing, and requirements for blended learning should the occasion arise. The survey found that participants, all of whom were EIS members, had expressed that this had been a challenging time and had pushed them to work long hours, adapt their skills quickly and left them in need of clearer guidance.

The issue of planning being critical in delivering teaching remotely is highlighted in an online survey (Lundie and Law, 2020) showing that approximately two thirds of teachers who responded recognised the importance of planning online work to meet different educational needs. Teachers agreed engagement was important but just under one third were unclear how to manage attendance when providing online learning. Just over one third of teachers were unclear how to apply behavioural expectations when teaching in this manner.

Teachers clearly identify that the loss of peer interaction affects learners’ motivation. The EEF remote learning rapid assessment found that peer interaction helped with motivation of learners and that it was important for teachers to adopt different remote learning to suit content and tasks (EEF, 2020).

Adaptive ways of working, utilising creative assignments and innovative communication methods are cited in a US qualitative study. Anderson and Hira (2020) interviewed six elementary school educators in the United States and used a qualitative approach to understand how the teachers are meeting the challenge of teaching online, what supports they require, how they view their role and how students are learning in the current landscape. Their findings suggest that teachers are finding solutions by creating creative assignments and communicating with students and parents via a range of different platforms. They are learning to use technology to create meaningful, socially distant learning experiences. The study highlighted that teachers exercise compassion for their students while providing the best education they can in the current context.

Factors Impacting on the Effectiveness of Practice Responses

The literature highlights that schools that already employed online learning found it easier to adapt to remote or blended learning models of teaching. A range of factors impact on the effectiveness of practice responses including:

  • internet access and availability of hardware;
  • appropriate available support; and
  • schools already using online learning were better placed to adapt to the COVID-19 situation with school building closures.
Internet and Digital Access

Much of the literature on home learning focused on the disparity of digital access in homes and how lack of digital access impacted learners, especially those from low income backgrounds. As covered in earlier sections, the evidence points to lack of internet and digital access as a contributing factor in inequality of educational experiences and in widening the attainment gap. The literature goes beyond digital access and highlights that access to hardware and connectivity alone are not enough to ensure online learning is successful (Morgan, 2020). The issue of being able to assess pupil progress is also prevalent along with further research suggested to better understand the efficacy of current models of delivering remote and blended learning.

There is a call for direct support of pupils with online learning to ensure it goes beyond connectivity and hardware needs: “providing a young person who does not have one with a laptop is important, but it will not automatically make online-learning successful” (Black, 2020). This paper describes the current situation as an impossible task for the education system and emphasises the need for further research to better understand who has been accessing school, why (or why not) and how they have been doing this. The paper poses the warning that: “we may not know the scale of the impact on the attainment gap until it is too late to implement the needed interventions”.

Research suggests that schools that had already employed elements of remote learning were better placed to adapt to COVID-19 situation with school building closures (Kennat et al, 2020). It was also highlighted that teachers and pupils in more affluent schools had been exposed to and have easier access to technology both in school and at home. The paper notes that face-to-face teaching interaction and feedback is not fully reflected in remote or e-learning. The study noted that for younger pupils, pupils learning English as their second language, and those with disabilities or special needs, e-learning may not be ideal citing support required to develop independent learning skills, and maturity to succeed in an e-learning environment. This is in addition to additional support required to address user errors and the troubleshooting skills needed to manage e-learning devices.

Schools who were already using online approaches were better placed to face the challenges of this becoming a full-time learning and teaching experience during a lockdown phase highlighted by the EPI (2020). It shares findings from roundtable discussions where issues were raised around the place of assessment when children and young people are learning online. They found that regular contact with parents/carers had been beneficial and helped schools provide advice and support about how to help children with their school work and, in addition, better understand the health and wellbeing within families during this time. They argue that it will be important to share the learning from schools with more embedded digital strategies in order to build capacity more widely using this mode of learning. International evidence demonstrates a wider range of learning platforms beyond online to include radio and television being used to support learning and teaching. In moving forward, they suggest a focus on data infrastructure, centralised support and initiatives including assessment, and support for teachers, home learning, parents, and wellbeing.

Findings from CPAG research (2020a,b) highlight a number of factors highly relevant for consideration when delivering online learning with pupils affected by socio-economic disadvantage. This points to the importance of listening to the voice of pupils, parents and carers when developing online learning strategies for support. Children and young people valued being able to communicate with their teachers online, but phone calls were also highly appreciated by those who had received them. Parents and carers valued schools that took the time to understand their particular circumstances and offer personalised support. Secondary school pupils were more likely to report that they had done a lot of school work at home if they were regularly keeping in touch with their teachers. Pupils who said that they were having infrequent or no contact with their schools reported doing much less work. Pupils who reported doing a lot of work at home were also more likely to report that their schools had provided them with the resources to help them work at home.

Education Provisions for those in Rural Settings

Online learning relies on the ability to connect through the internet. Literature emerging on the response to the school building closures has some focus on provisions for children and young people living in disadvantaged rural settings, where access to the internet may be limited.

Strategies to provide a focus on equitable learning in rural areas are outlined in Peterson et al. (2020) where a case study from the USA documents how one rural district leveraged their strong foundation of technology integration and created crisis remote learning solutions for its most marginalised student populations including special education students, English learners and socio-economically disadvantaged students. The study shares examples of how this district prioritised relationships and the wellbeing of students and staff and outlines practical strategies for equitable distance learning that should be considered during and beyond emergency remote teaching.

Educational decision making and leadership which focuses on community perspectives and purposeful approaches to resolving educational inequities is outlined in Aguliera et al (2020). The paper draws from a larger qualitative study to highlight the lived experiences of families impacted by emergency shifts in educational policy and practice. This paper presents a dialogue between two teacher-educators of a black and minority ethnic background working directly with teachers and administrators in the K-12[11] system across urban and rural contexts. Broader implications of this work illustrate the divide between marginalised and dominant communities, which point to the educational inequities that can threaten the academic achievement of all students. With consideration of local contexts, the authors highlight the importance of educational decision-making that focuses on the perspectives of families in local communities. They highlight the importance of developing pedagogical and structural approaches to address educational inequities; and purposeful approaches to emergency remote teaching to help to address these inequities and move towards educational parity.

V. Recovery – Re-opening Schools – Mitigation Factors

Many countries across the world have re-opened their schools after closing them for a period of time and having online/remote or blended models operating. The literature covers factors that schools could take forward, depending on their specific areas of need, to be prepared for the reintegration of their pupils into classrooms, and approaches to mitigate the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and young people. These include:

  • ongoing support and planning are particularly important for socio-economically disadvantaged pupils;
  • the importance of high quality teaching and support for pupils to be able to learn independently;
  • strategies for recovery focus on increasing the amount and quality of learning time;
  • consideration of strategies such as smaller class sizes, increased personalization; additional one to one and small group support;
  • an increased focus on social and emotional learning, utilising specialist support services where required;
  • enhancing the role of personal tuition to support children experiencing greatest challenges; and
  • the role of the third sector in tailoring their offers and ways of working, in the same way that schools have, is reported as a strength.

There is a recognition in the literature that schools cannot return to business as usual after COVID-19 related school building closures (Muller and Goldenberg, 2020). They suggest that schools can mitigate the negative impacts of pandemics, but that students and school staff will need ongoing support and careful planning to successfully tackle the challenges that lie ahead (Muller and Goldenberg, 2020).

Ongoing support and planning are particularly important for socio-economically disadvantaged pupils returning to school. The NFER summary report (based on survey research and published studies) found that schools serving the highest proportions of socio-economically disadvantaged pupils had the lowest levels of pupil and socio-economically disadvantaged pupil engagement, and were likely to need intensive support to help them to manage a complex array of pupil needs over the coming months (NFER, 2020). Similarly the EEF (2020) emphasises the additional difficulty for children and young people who are experiencing socio-economic disadvantage and their higher risk of increased absence. They reiterate that a combination of targeted and sustained support will be needed once learners return to school. They include the importance of high quality teaching and the need for ongoing professional development. Bayrakdar and Guveli (2020) argue that schools’ provisions of offline and online remote teaching and homework checking significantly increased the time children spent on home learning and helps to mitigate the disadvantages.

Evidence also points to the importance of high quality teaching and support for pupils to be able to learn independently as necessary elements in recovery. Pupil engagement needs to be encouraged to ensure that pupils return work that has been set for them. This issue was more prevalent in primary than secondary schools. In addition, they highlight making and maintaining positive connections between school and home, particularly to help keep the focus on attainment and closing the poverty-related attainment gap (Lucas et al, 2020). The importance of peer interaction was highlighted by the EEF (2020) who noted that it helped with the motivation of learners and that teachers should ensure they adopt different remote learning to suit different content and tasks.

Strategies for recovery focus on increasing the amount and quality of learning time , which is explored by Garcia and Weiss in their US-based research. They note that once the pandemic allows it, efforts will need to be made to make up for school building closures by increasing both the amount and quality of learning time through extended schedules, summer activities and after-school activities. They also note that more personalised instruction, staffing strategies that reduce class sizes and utilise ‘highly credentialed educators’ are important areas to consider (Garcia and Weiss, 2020).

Consideration of strategies such as smaller class sizes, increased personalisation, one to one and small group sizes are also suggested as potential mitigating approaches by Outhwaite and Gulliford (2020). In their briefing paper they address academic and social and emotional interventions in response to COVID-19 school building closures. The authors suggest that small group and one-to-one instruction are the most effective forms of academic intervention post-lockdown to support at-risk children and young people.

The benefits of an increased focus on social and emotional learning is outlined, utilising specialist support services where required, by Outhwaite et al (2020). This includes play-based approaches, particularly for younger children which they suggest improves students’ wellbeing, their sense of belonging and, in turn, their academic outcomes.

Utilising specialist support services, including external professionals such as educational psychologists, for the most vulnerable children and young people is key and should be pursued. The authors recommend that school leaders implement universal approaches for community rebuilding during and following the post-lockdown transition period. They also recommend that school leaders prioritise social and emotional learning alongside other academic skills. In terms of policy makers, the authors suggest that they support schools with pupil premium-type funds to enable access to effective targeted academic and social and emotional intervention resources. In addition, they recommend that policy makers enable schools to access specialist educational psychologist support, especially for children who are significantly at risk of psycho-social difficulties (Outhwhaite et al 2020).

The Sutton Trust (Cullinane and Montacute, 2020) argues that parents need helpful, not prescriptive, support in order to best help their children learn. Looking at ways to ensure all children can access online learning, including providing access to the required resources, will be important in the coming months to minimise the impact of the COVID-19 school building closures on the attainment gap. They suggest enhancing the role of personal tuition, supplementing the support provided by teachers, to support children experiencing challenges and argue that this will already be happening in more affluent families. The EEF (2020) also suggests that it would be valuable to test the feasibility of online tuition as a way to supplement the support provided by teachers to socio-economically disadvantaged children and young people.

The role of the third sector is highlighted as important in a briefing by Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland (Chapman et al, 2020 b) where they note that communication between local authorities and individual third sector organisations was important during the period of school building closures. The adaptability apparent in how third sector organisations have ‘tailored their offers and ways of working accordingly, in the same way that schools have’ is reported as a strength. The briefings also note that there is a ‘need to involve the wider sector in strategic planning’ going forward. They go on to suggest that ‘drawing on these cross-sector perspectives and experience could support the development of blended models of learning where both face to face and virtual delivery will be required’.[12]

VI. Addressing inequality in education post COVID-19: recommendations arising from the literature

There are emerging themes and recommendations from the literature in respect of future opportunities as wide as ‘re-framing education’ to practice recommendations and areas for further research.

Re-framing education is discussed by Gleason et al (2020) who present their thoughts in an opinion piece which reflects on the current position of education in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. They suggest that it has presented an ‘unexpected opening’ and set out to reframe the current context as an opportunity to address equity. They highlight that there is a continued need for educators to understand and get to know students and families. They encourage an inquiry based teaching and learning approach and suggest a much needed increase in student agency and choices. They make a call for a change in beliefs, actions and the system in order to address inequity.

The importance of youth work organisations is discussed by The National Youth Agency and was published in June 2020. They note that school building closures most significantly impacted on vulnerable children and young people and that the nature of the return to school in September may continue to disadvantage them. They argue that youth work organisations can play a crucial role in supporting disadvantaged students by helping them develop skills, resilience and the social networks required to thrive on their return to school (National Youth Agency, 2020).

Aguilar (2020) presents a literature review which seeks to identify guidelines aimed at adapting to remote learning. Aguilar suggests that it is important to understand human capabilities when addressing digital equity gaps exacerbated by the pandemic. The author provides two tools that are intended to help individuals gather important information about the communities they serve and/or study (Aguilar, 2020).

Clarity over how teaching will be delivered in future academic terms is noted as key in building confidence combined with having sufficient planning time in a survey conducted by the EIS of Scottish headteachers and depute headteachers. It revealed anxiety amongst educators about the prospect of schools returning in August 2020 in a blended learning format. Over 90 per cent of respondents noted that greater clarity over how the next academic year of teaching will be delivered would be the most important factor to building confidence around the next session. The next most important element was having sufficient time to prepare, followed by support from their school and local authority. The EIS suggested that each of these elements should be incorporated into the planning for the 2020/2021 session to ensure teachers, and other relevant education staff, could deliver the blended learning approach planned at that point in time (in Scotland) for the schools returning in August 2020. (EIS, 2020).

2.3 Conclusion and Discussion

Further Research and Limitations

The evidence review extracted material between 23 March and 1 September 2020, and informed the scope of Phase 2. It covered the period of COVID-19 pandemic school building closures in Scotland (and much of the world). Schools in Scotland re-opened in mid-August and therefore the material does not include the re-opening phase. The methodological approach employed requires a distinct search period. Whilst it attempts to be as comprehensive as possible it is important to state that it is not exhaustive, for example the focused search-period of the review means that the full range of peer reviewed journal articles and studies was yet to appear at the time of writing. The inclusion of evidence does not constitute endorsement of findings, however whilst we have not quality assured each inclusion we have employed criteria for selection for review based on the quality and rigour of the evidence[13].

We have focused on material emerging from the UK, supplementing with relevant international evidence where appropriate. The volume of evidence available within the time period is testament to the considerable importance placed across education systems on gaining understanding of the experiences, impacts and possible policy and practice approaches to support socio-demographically disadvantaged children and young people. We are continuing to monitor the emerging evidence to ensure consideration of relevant findings going forward. Related evidence gathering and review exercises such as the publication of Scottish Government briefings on evidence from Scotland and the UK on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the wellbeing of children, young people and families, including those with vulnerabilities and those experiencing socio-economic disadvantage or discrimination is in progress.

In reporting on the emerging policy and practice landscape it is apparent that education system responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are evolving in nature. This creates a further challenge for review of the evidence as research findings were frequently related to a particular point in the pandemic response. A number of organisations sought to undertake repeated survey waves, for example, as a way of gaining an understanding of changes over relatively brief periods of time. This review has attempted to ensure a sense of this, by including reference to publication dates for example, but evidence cited reflects the findings available at a point in time. This suggests the potential for future research into the ongoing experiences and impacts during the recovery period and the potential for research which is more longitudinal in nature. A number of such studies are currently in progress or planned in Scotland, such as further waves of Lockdown Lowdown.

Aligned to this is the suggested need for further and ongoing research on children and young people’s voice. This will be important to consider in order to learn from the in-depth lived experiences of children and young people affected by socio-economic disadvantage during the period of school building closures due to COVID-19.

A further issue to highlight is communities where there is new poverty emerging as a result of changing economic circumstances associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. This was an area the review sought to include but in practice there was little specific evidence which emerged from the search within the time-period covered. The impact of rural poverty was also an area the review sought to examine but again there was little specific evidence uncovered through the search. These will be important aspects to continue to review the emerging evidence, and to consider for further research.


Contact

Email: ScottishAttainmentChallenge@gov.scot