1. Introduction
  2. Health
  3. Economy, Fair Work and Business, Culture
  4. Communities, Poverty, Human Rights
  5. Children, Education
  6. Environment, International
  7. Unequal impacts across the National Outcomes


What COVID-19 may mean for Scotland’s Wellbeing in the Future


Children, Education



In Children, Education


  • Rates of early immunisation and initial health visits have remained high during lockdown. On the wellbeing of children and young people, though there is some suggestion that the experience of lockdown may have held positives for some, most research indicates a generally negative impact, particularly among 12 to 14 year old girls
  • Children and young people are now re-entering education with ground to catch up on as well as new procedures to adapt to in this academic year, alongside widespread concerns about lasting negative impacts on educational attainment for more disadvantaged students
  • Numbers of students and the proportion of Scottish students securing places at Scottish universities in 2020 are both up from last year. However potential of widespread unemployment and a squeeze on household incomes are likely to close down higher education options for young people from poorer households. The shift to online provision is likely to reconfigure the higher and further education offer in the future, with as yet unclear impacts for equality of access


Related outcomes

  • Educational attainment is likely to be affected for all age cohorts, though the benefits of new teaching approaches or additional provision may offset this, and the attainment gap is expected to increase given the different experiences of home schooling for children in poorer households. This could affect future labour market chances and in the longer term potentially poverty rates
  • Lack of employment choice or availability and financial insecurity are perceived as key issues by young people. Disruption to education may also impact on young people’s participation or make it harder to hear children’s voices
  • Resilience, confidence, wellbeing and happiness of children and young people may also be affected by increased family pressures and uncertainty around education and other aspects of their lives, and access to health services or healthy activities through schools may also have been impacted resulting in poorer health outcomes




Early years health

Coverage of the Health Visitor first visit and six-eight week review has remained high for children becoming eligible during the pandemic, with more than 95% of babies receiving their first visit and 88-90% receiving their six-eight week review. Coverage of all other reviews fell for eligible children during the lockdown period in particular. However there is evidence of “catch-up”, with coverage improving with time, but this has still not reached the levels achieved in 2019. For the later child health reviews, which have a much longer timeframe for reviews to be delivered, particularly the four-five year review, it will take some time for final coverage to be known.[i]


Immunisation uptake rates have been higher nationally across the three doses of the six-in-one vaccination as well as both doses of the MMR vaccination. This is seen more markedly among children living in the most deprived areas. However it is too soon to determine whether this early improvement will translate into improved final uptake, and a reduction in health and other inequalities, when measured at later ages.[ii]

Wellbeing of children and young people

Scottish parent survey evidence shows that whilst some children aged between two and seven fared better during lockdown, there was a reported decline in sleep, mood, behaviour, activity levels, eating behaviour and mental wellbeing for between a quarter and nearly half of children.[iii]  Positive impacts reported include an increase in imaginative and outdoor play.


UK and international research tends to show a general worsening of mental wellbeing during the pandemic (especially anxiety, loneliness and depression), particularly for young people with pre-existing mental health problems, those living in poverty, and other disadvantaged groups such as care experienced children and minority ethnic young people. However this finding is not consistent across all sources and one survey of younger teenagers during lockdown reported improved mental wellbeing compared to the previous year (though this was not the case for LGBTQ+ students and those with a health problem or disability). There is a fairly consistent finding in Scottish surveys that the mental wellbeing of girls, particularly older girls, has fared worse than that of boys during the pandemic.


Boredom, isolation, uncertainty and lack of control continue to have an impact on many young people during lockdown, particularly disadvantaged young people.  Remote schooling, an overload of screen time and limited access to outdoor play have also been cited as factors. The things that helped children and young people during lockdown were routine and structure, a sense of control in their lives, having things to do, contact with friends and the wider school community, physical activity and learning new skills.


The Children’s Parliament has run surveys for 8-14 year olds in April, May, June  and September on the experiences and views of children during the pandemic, it found that[iv]:


  • On home learning: Most children struggled with home learning and were increasingly worried about school work as time went on. Over the first three surveys, there was an increase in levels of boredom and a decline in children reporting having fun things to do in their days, although there was an improvement in these measures in the September survey
  • Relationships: Whilst most children enjoyed being with their family, and identified parents/carers as their greatest support, these figures declined from April to June, although there was a recovery by the September survey. Most children had someone they can talk to about their worries, but a significant minority indicated that they have no one
  • Mental wellbeing: In June, more children reported being lonely, and fewer felt in a positive mood and resilient than in April. However, post lockdown children are more likely to agree that they generally feel cheerful and in a good mood. There are significant improvements when it comes to children reporting that they often feel lonely. This is particularly so for the group of children who had reported highest levels of loneliness during lockdown, girls aged 12 to 14
  • Gender differences: 12-14 year old girls were are more likely to feel bored, lonely, worry about things in their life, including their own health, than younger girls and boys of all ages.


The personal and social development of children and young people may also have been impacted by a period of detachment from the school environment. In particular, children’s experience of Early Learning and Childcare cannot be replicated in remote learning in the same way that older children’s education might be.[v] The closure of ELC facilities and delays to the rollout of ELC expansion during the pandemic may have longer term consequences for children who were in their early years in 2020, especially for those from poorer backgrounds who benefit more from high quality ELC.[vi]

Vulnerable children and young people

The number of children identified as needing child protection plans has been lower than average throughout the lockdown (and further restrictions phases) compared to an average week last year. Agencies reported that women and children faced barriers to accessing services. The proportion of children with a child protection plan who were seen by a professional in the preceding two weeks was 86-96% throughout April and May, and has been fairly steady around 97% each week since then.


Feedback from organisations working with families experiencing domestic abuse in the UK indicates an increase in referrals since lockdown has eased, with reports of some perpetrators continuing to use the restrictions as a means of controlling victims and their children.[vii]


Many care experienced young people in Scotland lived alone during lockdown and have experienced profound isolation. The pressure placed on young carers in Scotland during the pandemic has also impacted negatively on their wellbeing and education, leaving a greater number worried about their future than before the pandemic.[viii]

Family life

The lockdown presented clear challenges for many parents and carers, managing home schooling and work, dealing with health issues without usual supports and experiencing associated pressure on family relationships.


Living through the pandemic


“My daughter sees her home as her safe space as somewhere to chill out but having to do school work at home put extra stress on her.  Having me telling her what schoolwork to do and trying to get her to do the work – she didn’t want to do it – we tried doing work once a week and then in the end we had to give up as she just didn’t want to do it and was so stressed by it.  She is disabled.  She has always had a temper and but lockdown has heightened emotions.”

Voices from Scotland on COVID-19’s impact


While some families have faced more challenges than others, particularly those living in poverty or experiencing physical or mental health issues, it does not appear to be the case that the experience of lockdown and continuing restrictions on normal life has been either all good or all bad for most families, and even those experiencing significant challenges may have found some positives, illustrated by the quote below from an asylum seeker in Glasgow.


Living through the pandemic


“The lockdown gave me more time to reflect on what is important and not so important in my life. I value more about family relationship and friendship.  I treasure all the quality time that I spent with my 3 children and my husband. I prayed more during the lockdown and wish for a peaceful and better world. I read stories book and tell bed time stories to my children which I had never did before.”[ix]

Voices from Scotland on COVID-19’s impact

Although surveys across the UK and research by third sector organisations have reported the difficulties experienced by many parents during lockdown, there is UK survey evidence of some families growing closer during lockdown.[x]



Schools in Scotland were closed from 20 March and reopened on 11 August 2020. Children and young people’s experience of education changed dramatically during lockdown, and they have returned to very different academic settings. Home schooling was experienced by some 8 to 14 year-olds in Scotland as an alternative with potential benefits, while others reported less choice, fun or pride in their work and increased boredom with home schooling.[xi]


Students from poorer backgrounds are likely to have had less active engagement with teachers or school services and less space to learn in.[xii] Across the UK, children with their own computer whose parents both worked regularly from home with the main parent in a “service class” occupation spent on average 2.9 hours per day on school work for primary level and 3.8 per day at secondary level. Children without these advantages spent 2.3 hours at primary level and 2.6 at secondary.[xiii] A survey of 1,000 disadvantaged pupils across Scotland showed that two thirds were unable to do school work during lockdown.[xiv]


There have been additional barriers to home learning where English is an additional language or where children have additional needs. In an online survey, the proportion of parents concerned that their child would be “behind” in their learning when they returned to primary school increased from 16% in Week 1 to 25% in Week 4.[xv]


National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams were cancelled and coursework could not be collected or marked by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). Instead grades were based on teacher estimates. This absence of external assessment led to a different pattern of attainment than would be seen in a normal year and means that results for 2020 should not be compared to those in previous years. The table below[xvi] shows 2020 grade A-C attainment rate.

 Grade A-C Attainment rate
SCQF Level 5: National 578.2%89.0%
SCQF Level 6: Higher74.8%89.3%
SCQF Level 7: Advanced Higher79.4%93.1%


On 27 October the pupil attendance rate for Scotland as a whole was 92.5%, varying from 88% to 96% across councils. Councils with the highest levels of deprivation report consistently lower attendance on average: on 27 October, the average for the most deprived councils was 91.5% compared to 94.2% for the least deprived councils.  Rural authorities also tend to report higher attendance rates, (e.g. 94.6% average for rural authorities compared to 91.8% for urban authorities).[xvii]

Universities and colleges


In 2020 48,820 students gained places at Scottish universities through UCAS, as at 28 days after A-level results day, an increase on the 2019 figure.


Increases in unemployment and household debt will have shaped considerations for domestic students of whether to seek or take up university places, particularly students from working class backgrounds.[xviii]  In July, three in five UK students surveyed by the National Union of Students (NUS) stated that COVID-19 had some degree of impact on their income, with one in five reporting a major impact.[xix]


The teaching awaiting this cohort will be shaped by substantial and rapid changes to how universities and colleges operate. Faced with lockdown, higher and further education delivery has been reconfigured to centre on blended online and face to face teaching, and this is seen as a template for future provision. The changes are likely to transform what further education (FE) and higher education (HE) institutions offer, as well as the student experience and staff conditions.[xx] A third of lecturers at Scottish colleges surveyed in June by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) were not confident about increased use of online learning in the coming academic year and 71% were concerned about the ability to deliver all aspects of the curriculum.[xxi]


Nearly all lecturers reported barriers for their students engaging in remote learning, while the NUS survey in July found that among students with online learning provided by their institution, 67% were able to access this sufficiently to complete their studies and 55% agreed the online provision was of good standard or quality.[xxii] It is likely that these changes will be better for some groups of students and worse for others. The Disabled Students Commission, for example, have highlighted the potential  benefit to students with fluctuating health conditions of online learning happening at different times, but also the need for accessibility to be standard across all learning platforms.[xxiii]


[i] Chid Health review

[ii] Immunisations








[ix] Social Renewal Advisory Board. Community Listening Events. 2020.

[x] Understanding Society. July 2020.








[xvii] Improvement Service









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