Previous findings showed that school closures had a predominantly negative impact for most of Scotland's children and young people due to the wide range of support that education settings provide, from a community, social and wellbeing perspective, as well as learning. Therefore, it was a particularly challenging decision to take to introduce remote learning for most pupils from January 2021.
Key findings also include the impact on parents and carers, particularly working parents and carers, as well as those experiencing poverty. Throughout remote learning, parents and carers, especially those of younger pupils, have often been required to juggle working life with caring responsibilities. This has been especially challenging for lone parents.
However, the government, as outlined in the Framework for Decision Making – Assessing the four harms of the crisis, has taken a decision based on the balance of the four harms.
It is not yet possible to determine whether there is a very different impact on pupils, staff and families in comparison to the school closures in 2020. However, it is reasonable to assume that some of the negative impacts felt during throughout the pandemic and earlier school closures, may continue or be compounded by the move to remote learning:
- It is widely acknowledged that remote learning, while improving in quality, is no replacement for face-to-face teaching. Therefore the attainment gap is expected to continue to widen between the most and the least disadvantaged pupils.
- Due to another period of children and young period spending most of their time at home, and the impact this may have on working parents, there is a risk of more families experiencing poverty and the stress this can cause.
- Another period of children and young people spending a majority of their time at home, unable to interact face-to-face with their peers or school staff, may have a negative impact on the mental health of some. These may be new symptoms, or may be the reappearance or worsening of previous symptoms.
Conversely, it is also reasonable to assume that, in comparison to school closures in 2020, some negative impacts may be reduced:
- Throughout school closures in 2020, vulnerable and key worker children had access to 'hub' schools only. By allowing all schools to be open to vulnerable and key worker children, this allows those children to attend a familiar setting with familiar staff.
- This also allows for a greater number of pupils to attend school on a national level while adhering to physical distancing guidelines.
- It is assumed that due to the passage of time and the experience of lockdown in 2020, that most members of the education workforce will feel more confident with delivering remote learning, and there are more resources available to support them.
- With significantly reduced numbers attending school in person and the impact this has on community transmissions (e.g. drop off and pick up times), there is an overall positive impact on the health of school communities due to reduced cases of COVID-19.
- For pupils, staff and families who have been concerned about transmission of COVID-19 (e.g. those who are clinically vulnerable, or whom live with someone who is clinically vulnerable), the move to remote learning may also provide some relief.
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