Young people have called on the government to produce a clear, national plan for similar crisis situations, with a focus on education – after they experienced 18 months of stress and disruption due to the virus.
The calls are part of a string of ‘Asks for Government’ from a group of young people in a report published today called #ScotYouthandCOVID2: Young People’s Participation Through Crisis.
The report, by A Place in Childhood (APiC) and supported by the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland also includes plans to develop these ‘Asks’ into a Scotland-wide manifesto for change.
The 25 “young consultants” involved in the report – 11 to 17-year-olds from Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, rural Falkirk and rural Stirlingshire – worked together from March, reflecting on the return to school in autumn last year and their experiences of the winter lockdown.
Formal exams were scrapped for the second year in a row in Scotland due to the coronavirus pandemic, to be replaced by school-administered assessments.
The recommendations include redesigning assessments; offering support for teachers; schools and teachers ensuring that workloads are not overwhelming; and the creation of school-based discussion groups that could feed into government plans, so that children and young people can be a key part of ongoing improvements.
Young consultant Aimee, 17, from Denny, Falkirk, said: “The Scottish Government needs to recognise that young people are crying out for help.
"We need more mental health support, we want our exams and our schooling to be sorted. We need them to be clear on restrictions and we’ve been asking for that for so long.
"They are going to have to listen to us and they have to make a change.”
Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been a human rights crisis and children and young people have sacrificed so much to comply with the measures to protect public health, including limitations to their rights to education, health, socialisation and freedom of assembly, all of which has had a profound effect on them.
"Children and young people have the right to have their opinions heard in all decisions affecting them, and that has not happened enough during this pandemic.
"To counter this, ‘young consultants’ have created a hopeful, productive and positive set of Asks from sharing their experiences and we must listen to them and children and young people across Scotland.
"Understanding their experiences and insights and, crucially, their important ideas for change is vital to ensure the government lives up to its promise to respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights during and beyond the current crisis.”
The group now aims to create a Scotland-wide manifesto for change that represents the needs of as many children and young people as possible.
Dr Jenny Wood, co-director of A Place in Childhood, said: “Young consultants have proved time and again in this research the significant insights and contributions they have to understanding how the pandemic has affected children and young people, where improvements need to be made, and how they can recover from the impacts.
"It is now our responsibility to act on their Asks and strategy to develop these into a Scotland-wide manifesto.”