Scotland’s Education Recovery Group must use all available resources to the maximum extent possible to support children’s education, and include children and young people as active participants in decisions on the next steps for schools and teaching, Bruce Adamson, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland said today.
In a human rights briefing paper, he urged the Scottish Government to heed the United Nations’ guidance on education to frame recovery plans. Meeting the Four As – Availability, Accessibility, Acceptability and Adaptability – cover concerns such as access to teachers, continuity of lessons and provision of resources, face-to-face opportunities and the wider children’s rights principle that education should ‘develop a child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential’.
Mr Adamson said:
“The Scottish Government is required to use all available resources to the maximum extent possible in ensuring that children’s right to education are fulfilled and that the negative impacts of COVID-19 on other aspects of children’s lives are mitigated.
“It’s important that the Scottish Government involves young people in their decision making as it prepares for school to return on August 11, and carries out its work with children’s rights at the forefront.
“Human rights law recognises that exceptional circumstances, such as COVID-19, might involve restrictions on rights, but now we must refocus on a return to education within a system that upholds all of our children’s human rights, and which supports their wellbeing and ambitions.
“School closures have impacted on a wide range of human rights, not just the right to education. Rights to enough nutritious food, to the best mental health possible and to relax and play, along with many others. Decisions on re-opening of schools must be taken in line with the legal tests, ensure provision of education in line with international standards, and consider the impact on children’s rights beyond just education.”
Call for learning support in stronger role
The Commissioner also hopes that the Education Recovery Group will give a stronger role to learning support. The Additional Support for Learning (Scotland) Act 2004 created duties on local authorities to carry out assessments and to provide statutory Co-ordinated Support Plans (CSPs) for those children who meet the legal threshold.
“Compliance with these duties has been poor for a long time, but the current situation provides an opportunity to return CSPs to the status the Parliament intended them to have, as a central means for identifying, planning and responding to children’s rights and needs,” he said.