Mental health, motivation, catching up at school― children and young people have the right to have their opinions heard in all decisions affecting them.
But that hasn’t happened enough throughout the pandemic.
That’s why we supported young consultants working with A Place in Childhood (APiC) on the #ScotYouthandCOVID2 project.
Now that the project’s finished, APiC’s created a report about it: #ScotYouthandCOVID2: Children and Young People’s Participation Through Crisis.
It sets out the ways in which 25 young people think Scotland needs to change after our experiences living with a global pandemic.
And it encourages other young people across Scotland to contribute to creating a manifesto for change.
What’s the background to this report and project?
Not long after 2020’s first lockdown, APiC gathered young people from across Scotland to give their views as young consultants.
In 2021, we supported APiC to continue their work with young consultants, and it’s this work that forms the basis of this report.
The 25 young people they worked with were between 11 and 17, and from Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Rural Falkirk and Rural Stirlingshire. Their work reflects on their return to school in autumn 2020 and explores their experiences throughout the second lockdown.
Although they come from a range of different places across the country, have different backgrounds and are of different ages, they’ve reached agreement in what they’re asking for and where the problems lie.
What do the Young Consultants say needs to change?
The Young Consultants created a series of Asks for the Scottish Government as a manifesto of what needs to change for young people, and the full list is collected below:
Motivation and school
- 1. We find it extremely difficult to learn without a teacher being there. In periods of remote learning, we need to find a way to have live video teaching available for everyone.
- 2. We understand that remote schooling is difficult for teachers too, but we need quick, clear and thoughtful feedback. It really matters for helping us understand how we’re doing, feeling valued, and motivating us to continue working hard.
- 3. Some teachers have gone the extra mile for us during lockdown and it’s made a huge difference. Let’s learn what has worked well and what has worked less well with lockdown teaching so that we know what to do in future.
- 4. We know some of our teachers have been really struggling during the pandemic. You need to support teachers to support us and hear their concerns in times of crisis and uncertainty.
- 5. Our schools and teachers need to work together to make sure we’re not overwhelmed by our combined workload and schedule.
- 6. Sometimes we need additional support to do well at school. We would welcome optional sessions in school where we can talk about what is going well and less well for us and receive help with tasks when we need it.
- 7. We often have important and useful views on things outside of school. We would welcome discussion groups in school so we can give the Government information on what is happening for us and we can be involved more in improvements.
- 8. Take concerted action on addressing the Gender Pay Gap and school and workplace discrimination and bullying. This currently affects too many people.
- 9. Commit to better and more meaningful engagement between Government and children and young people, recognising the wide range of issues that affect us and the interests we have in our shared future.
Skills and employment
- 10. Ensure safe and secure employment and good work experience opportunities for everyone. We are worried about our futures and want to know that our skills and contributions will be valued when we leave school.
- 11. Ensure children and young people get a good quality education on genuinely useful life skills such as effective money management, understanding bills and taxes, cooking, and how mortgages and other types of finance work.
- 12. We want to feel safe and included where we live. Work with us to hear and understand issues in our local areas and improve opportunities for all children and young people.
- 13. Improve rubbish collection, maintenance of public space, and educate people about protecting the environment and keeping places clean. It affects our well-being.
Exam years with high workload and stress
- 14. Redesign assessment processes so that we are judged on the work we’ve done across the course of a year instead of exams at the end.
- 15. Provide clear guidance to schools to ensure there is no confusion, changing or duplication of materials needed to make a fair and accurate assessment of our progress.
- 16. Work with young people to design an exam assessment system that is fairer and more effective for S4-S6, which learns from the stress and uncertainty during the pandemic.
- 17. Have a clear national education plan in place for crisis situations, including how assessments will be structured and organised.
Wellbeing for us
- 18. Set up a helpline for children and young people to ring to discuss our wellbeing and get information and advice to help improve it.
- 19. Understand that we’ve had a really difficult year and we need time and space to recover. Remote schooling has been challenging and it’s often not been clear what has been expected of us.
- 20. Focus on creating opportunities for us to feel young again and be childish.
- 21. Improve mental health support and services for us. Long waiting lists are bad for the well-being of ourselves, friends and families.
Wellbeing for all
- 22. Improve mental health services for everyone and address loneliness. This is about both services for people in current need and making sure people feel included and supported in society to tackle the causes of poor mental health.
- 23. Take preventative action on drug and alcohol misuse by supporting all young people to have good mental health and make healthy choices.
- 24. Improve help and support for people of all ages that are suffering the effects of drug and alcohol misuse. The high rate of drug-related deaths worries us and seeing drug and alcohol misuse in our neighbourhoods can make us worried about going outside by ourselves.
- 25. Conduct a thorough and full inquiry of what happened during the COVID-19 pandemic so that we can understand and genuinely learn from experience.
- 26. Ensure a transition out of the pandemic that allows everyone to get the rest and leisure they have been missing.
- 27. Decision-makers need to communicate clearly and effectively. Give us the information we need when we need it, and in a clear form. We want to hear information directly, but we also only need to know what is relevant to us― so keep it concise, tailored and in clear language.
- 28. As far as possible, wait until you can give information that you are 100% clear is accurate and won’t change. If a decision is uncertain, then tell us why and inform us about the decision-making process. Sudden and unclear changes in decisions affect our well-being.
- 29. Consider setting up and/or supporting young people to set up a news organisation that delivers clear, accurate, and engaging news that we need to know. This could be like a young person’s version of Newsround to help combat fake news and misinformation on social media. We want a feature where we can ask something from social media to be fact-checked, so we don’t spread or get worried by misinformation.
- 30. During the remainder of the pandemic, keep high risk activities closed and get everyone vaccinated quickly. Prioritise outdoor activities that improve well-being and be really clear on the schedule and reasons behind it.
The Transition to Primary to Secondary School
31. Transitions are really important to us. Ensure there are good transitions between primary school to secondary school by:
- Asking us directly about our concerns or worries and working together to find solutions.
- Making sure everyone has opportunities to meet with new teachers in small groups, even if they can’t go to new school buildings.
- 32. Address the climate emergency by improving our production and use of renewable sources of energy and transitioning to using electric cars only.
- 33. Protect and enhance nature across the country.
- 34. More needs to be done to educate people about the causes and impacts of climate change, and practical things we can learn and do to adapt to its effects.
Your views on what needs to change
The next stage in the Young Consultants’ plan is to gather the views and experiences of as many children and young people from across Scotland as possible, focusing on those who’ve felt least during over the pandemic.
They plan to create a Scotland-wide manifesto for change that represents the needs of as many children and young people as possible.
They’ll soon be asking children and young people to contribute to that manifesto. If you:
- want to contribute yourself, or
- want to let children and young people know when they can make a contribution,
then you can register your interest by emailing Doctor Jenny Wood at APiC. She’ll let you know when they’re ready to receive your views and experiences.