30th July, 2021 1:29 pm
A report, published today, has provided a picture of the struggles faced by Scotland’s youngsters through the pandemic, highlighting the monotony of blended learning and online life.
Now, young people are overwhelmingly calling for the Scottish Government to “let them feel young again”.
Aimee, 17, a participant from Denny, summed up many of the issues, saying: “The Scottish Government needs to recognise that young people are crying out for help.
“We need more mental health support, we want our exams and our schooling to be sorted. We need them to be clear on restrictions, and we’ve been asking for that for so long.
“They are going to have to listen to us, and they have to make a change.”
The report, #ScotYouthandCovid2 was created by A Place In Childhood and supported by the Children and Young People’s Commissioner. It also contains ideas from young people on how to solve the problems.
It includes a series of “Asks” for the Government from the group of young people, developed through workshops which, it is hoped, will be expanded into a Scotland-wide children’s manifesto for change. “Young people, having experienced 18 months of stress and disruption”, it notes, “and want the Government to produce a clear, national plan for similar crisis situations, with a focus on education”.
What is striking from many of the young people’s quotes is the monotony and repetition of lockdown life and online learning for them.
One 14-year-old described it thus: “‘Everybody’s sort of lacking motivation due to living the same life for near enough a year.
“But online learning is like eat, sleep and repeat, basically.”
Another consultant described how it felt that “we need to constantly work” and be “just like a machine”, yet expressed a desire to “feel like we’re children again”.
Strikingly, many of the participants appeared to have a lot of sympathy for teachers.
“I think they [teachers],” said one of the consultant, “must be overwhelmed as well … there might be an issue where we need to understand what the teachers are going through, too.”
Twenty-five young people, aged between 11 and 17, from five place-based teams covering different parts of Scotland, and from different levels of wealth and deprivation, came together to discuss general and key issues online.
Some said the workshops were exactly the kind of interaction that was missing from schools’ delivery of online learning.
Dr Jenny Wood, one of the report’s authors, echoed this: “The lack of video teaching, live, for a lot of pupils, has been eye-opening.
“I can understand why it’s really difficult to do and that there are massive concerns for schools and teachers, but it does seem that risk-aversion in the education system has been the main thing that has stopped some of that.
“Young people are really missing that feedback and ability to collaborate. “
This is a generation growing up in a moment of uncertainty – not just in terms of long-term future, but of daily possible life changes.
Among the things that stood out for Dr Wood, who spoke exclusively to The Herald, were issues of “uncertainty, wellbeing and motivation”.
“Not knowing what is going to happen in the next couple of weeks has had a big impact on their wellbeing and a big impact on their motivation to learn,” she said.
“Many have also really been struggling with the absence of the social aspect of going to school.
“What also stood out was just how much this year has crystallised what has been going wrong in some of the systems that they have very little control over.
“These young people have been sat there, seeing an education system that is meant to work for them and observing so many ways that is not.”
The Children and Young People’s Commissioner, Bruce Adamson, noted that in such times of crisis, children are too often unheard. “At the beginning of the pandemic, the UN committee on the rights of the child talked about the grave risks to children’s rights and the danger that they wouldn’t be listened to,” he said.
“Scotland over the last few decades has become a world leader in involving young people. But then a crisis comes along and all that changes.
“We have heard consistently from children and young people in this crisis that they felt their voices were less heard at a time when they needed them to be heard. That combination of feeling unheard, alongside the uncertainty, put children’s rights at risk and meant that we made a lot of mistakes.”
The pandemic year in their own words: “Everything is different, nothing stays the same”
“Stress makes you get even less sleep which in the morning means you’re even more tired, and you fail in school … For me personal remote learning was a better experience and I preferred it as I learned what I wanted to learn and I got a lot better at stuff. I woke up later and got more sleep and I was less stressed. I know a lot of people did struggle with it and I felt bad for them but I was happier. I got to go outside and balance of school work and that was nice.” Sid, 13, Edinburgh
“Young people are unsure and they are struggling with all the things going on right now including how everything is changing, none of us actually know what is going on. Everything is different and nothing stays the same for long amounts of time and we are all struggling and finding it hard to deal with …
“Scotland should think more about young people’s views and use this experience to look at things that could be changed and ways they can improve things for the future. They can put in plans and preparations should something like this ever happen again.” Emma, 15, Bonnybridge
“My focus group were looking at the SQA and exam system, so the change I’d personally most like to see is a combination of examination and continuous assessment to find a model that works the best for everyone.” Catriona, 16, Kinlochard
“I would definitely most like to see, especially going into high school, not having to wear masks because they can be distracting and a bit uncomfortable and you need to be at your best to focus for school and learning. Also, being more free with your friends and gaining more independence…. I would like to see more clubs open up because some in my local area have stopped so hopefully some will open up in their place –and also, our church is quite small and it would be great to have people feeling better about coming to church because some people might be nervous that they would pick Covid up. So it would definitely be good to get back to what we see as normal, and group gatherings, club and church would be good if they could come back.” Isla, 12, Glasgow
“They don’t understand that everybody who’s doing home learning has different circumstances. And like, my family, I’ve got a sister who’s got medical conditions.
“And I think teachers didn’t understand, like, people’s personal circumstances.” Young Consultant, 14
“Even though this year and last year haven’t been ideal, the general idea of a continuous assessment model seems a fair method of assessment and one that could work really well, if it was properly organised.”
Young Consultant, 15
Source: The Herald, July 2021
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