Statement: Commissioner on the impact of COVID-19 on the right to education

Children and Young People’s Commissioner, Bruce Adamson, said:

“We are dealing with a human rights emergency and children’s right to an education has had to be balanced against rights to life and to healthcare. Since schools closed in March the right to education has been sacrificed and not being at school continues to have a profound impact on all children and their families. It has a disproportionate impact on children who are experiencing poverty or have additional support needs. Schools, teachers, parents and carers are doing incredible work to support children given the circumstances, but it will never be a substitute for attendance at school.  

“As we begin to look at how and when children will return to school, we must remain focused on doing all we can right now to mitigate against the worst impacts of the restrictions. For children living in poverty the digital divide has never been so wide and the Scottish Government needs to show leadership on this issue to bridge this inequality or we risk creating a generation of children who are permanently disadvantaged. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has warned of the grave physical, emotional and psychological effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Children have the right to be included in the decisions that affect their lives and the Scottish Government and decision-makers within education need to speak to them directly whilst they navigate schools reopening. Children do best in education when they have a high level of involvement deciding how it is delivered. Special efforts must be made to include those children whose rights are most at risk, including children who do not have regular access to the internet. Making use of the relationships that public services and charities have developed directly with children is vitally important here as well as hearing from organisations that represent the views of children and young people in Scotland.”

“Children are already navigating physical distancing when out for their daily exercise but it will be challenging particularly for younger children returning to nurseries and primary schools where physical contact is a natural, every day way to communicate with the world. Just in the same way that hand hygiene messages were reinforced through dance and song in schools, professionals will use their knowledge and expertise to reinforce those important messages about physical distancing too. The significant thing will be not to instil fear or anxiety and continue the positive messaging of what we can all do to keep each other safe and healthy.”

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