Children who were already struggling in education “fell off the radar” in the early stages of the pandemic, a children’s rights campaigner has said.
Dr Colin Morrison, a co-director at Children’s Parliament, said there may be a “legacy of disengagement” for some pupils who did not have adequate access to online learning materials in the first few months of the pandemic which could prove “difficult to address”.
In March last year, schools were closed in a move to halt the spread of Covid-19 and faced some restrictions for more than a year with face coverings still required in some educational settings to this day.
Speaking before the Education, Children and Young People Committee at Holyrood, Dr Morrison said: “A number of children we work with, and we often work with children who are not finding school engagement or learning easy in the first place, they fell off the radar that first three, four months – they were just gone to the education system.
“What I also know is many head teachers we knew who love and care for their children were literally scrambling about and delivering devices every day, knocking on doors and making sure people had food, never mind digital devices.
“There was some amazing practice that has really enriched the ongoing relationships that a school has with some of these families that are struggling most.”
The Scottish Government pledged last year it would supply 50,000 devices to children in the most need, with the estimate rising to 70,000 and the SNP pledged an age-appropriate device to every school pupil in Scotland in their manifesto ahead of May’s election.
But Dr Morrison said some children are still without the devices they need to learn.
“The first few months were chaotic,” he said.
“It’s still the case that some families don’t have the digital devices that they need and once that disengagement happened for some children and families it was very, very difficult to re-engage.
“It will have long term consequences for some of these children in terms of attendance, the ability to work in that blended way the way that other children have become much more used to digital engagement with learning and they’re taking that home and using that to build on learning currently.”
He added: “If there’s a gap in attainment there’s certainly a gap in how children are using that digital space to learn.
“For some children that’s just taken off and they’re blossoming with it, for other children there’s a legacy of disengagement that’s going to be difficult to address.”