Published by Holyrood Magazine
Written by Emily Woods
Sixty-eight per cent of Scotland’s most disadvantaged young people have been unable to do any school work in lockdown, a new survey has revealed, with pupils also struggling with anxiety, stress and impacted sleep patterns.
The study has led to calls for schools to focus on young people’s mental wellbeing when they return in August.
Mentoring charity MCR Pathways surveyed 1,347 young people aged 13 to 18 from city, town, rural and island settings during lockdown.
Of those surveyed, 56.1 were care-experienced and either currently or were previously in the care system and 43.9 per cent of the young people are on the edges of the care system experiencing various forms of disadvantage
The study found 40 per cent of young people were too stressed and one in four had caring responsibilities that took priority over school work.
Two thirds of the young people reported feeling low, anxious or stressed and 90 per cent said their sleeping patters had “dramatically altered” since going into lockdown, with a quarter experiencing significantly disturbed sleep.
When asked about returning to school, 80 per cent of young people were concerned with the difficulties around getting back into routine, and 76 per cent worried about being behind in school work.
Sixty per cent of young people were concerned about catching the virus and passing it on to family members.
Three quarters of young people asked for additional support through one-to-one time with their teachers when they return.
The charity is calling for schools to give “equal focus” to young people’s mental wellbeing as well as academic education in the first few months of returning to school.
“Given the impact of lockdown on our most disadvantaged, we felt it was absolutely critical that young people’s voices were heard and centre stage for all decisions on how to build back better,” MCR Pathways Founder Iain MacRitchie said.
“The loss of education has been compounded by the profound impact on mental wellbeing, confidence and self belief.
“To avoid losing a generation and further fueling the attainment crisis, we need to listen very closely to the young people and do what they need us to do. Their feedback is crystal clear.”
He also said the study showed the importance of printed materials in home education.
“42.1 per cent of young people want them as part of home learning plans in the event of a second lockdown,” he said. “Twenty per cent of our most disadvantaged don’t have the space at home to work, and 15 per cent still don’t have the IT kit or internet access.
“Many are trying unsuccessfully to learn using only their phones. This all culminates in our most disadvantaged, despite being keen to engage in learning, facing multiple and continuous barriers preventing them. We must not allow the increasing inequality and a rapidly widening attainment gap to continue.
“Young people told us they need to be in school full time and it’s clear that the most vulnerable and disadvantaged need one to one teacher time and supportive relationships as a central part of all recovery plans.
“It is heartbreaking to hear young people saying they have lost all social interaction abilities, that they now feel sad most of the time and can’t get out of bed as they have nothing to look forward to and no one to help or encourage them.
“Schools are not just for education, they are safe havens, community hubs and where hope and aspiration is nurtured. If there is a second lockdown we must find a way and alternative buildings if necessary to continue full time education for those that need it most.”