Reach are delighted to welcome Liam Fowley MSYP, Education Convener for the Scottish Youth Parliament, to share about what learning in lockdown has been like for young people and the best way to go from here….
“It is fair to say that recently education in Scotland has been a bit turbulent. Overnight, our society shut down and our schools were closed. The world is battling a pandemic, but education was continuing virtually as best it could.
Digital exclusion during lockdown
One of the most spoken about topics is that of digital exclusion. Not every young person has access to a laptop or Wi-Fi which means they can’t access e-learning recourses. This means that some young people are falling behind. Digital exclusion is affecting everyone differently; during lockdown, constituents contacted me regularly about their problems with digital exclusion. One young person told me: “My mum uses the laptop every day when working from home, I struggle to keep up on my phone and regularly find myself up until 4am trying to catch up.”
To say the least, this is far from ideal. This has had a detrimental impact on many young people across the length and breadth of our country. Many Local Authorities have been trying to rectify this by sending out paper resources to young people, but young people don’t know this support exists, and are missing out yet again.
Why online learning helped re-engage some pupils not in school
Whilst online working has not worked for many, it would be wrong to say others have not had a positive experience with it. For instance, in my local authority, they found that many young people that typically missed classes were actively participating with online learning. This suggests that these young people do want to learn, there is just other reasons or circumstances which are preventing them from attending school in-person. For example, young carers may not always have the chance to simply get up and go to school because members of their family depend on them. Their young caring role often comes first. But partial e-learning could work for them.
Post lockdown learning – working with young people is the best way forward
As I write this blog, schools are re-opening across Scotland. But whilst it is crucial centres safely open again, there is no harm in stopping and thinking for a moment. Do we have to back to usual? What have we learnt over the past 4 months? Can we make a change here? We could alter the education system to better suit the needs of young carers, or young people with Additional Support Needs. A blended approach – in which we continue online lessons to those who prefer them – may indeed by more effective.
Now, I would never claim to have all the answers when it comes to what works best for different young people. But I can certainly tell you who does: young people. Government, Local Authorities and Schools should actively seek to talk to young people, and be open to changing the system so that young people have access an education that suits them.”
Convener of the Scottish Youth Parliament’s Education and Lifelong Learning Committee