26 November 2020

Young representatives broaden councillors' perspectives

Members of Aberdeenshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee and senior education officers caught up with Aberdeenshire’s Youth Council and Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament this week (Wednesday 25 November) as part of an ongoing commitment to youth engagement.

A number of the young people involved highlighted issues with complacency concerning Covid-19 among their peers and are keen to see more of an emphasis on compliance, as well as more engagement with parent councils.  

Director of Education and Children’s Services Laurence Findlay acknowledged the challenges in terms of consistency of guidance for young people, who are expected to maintain physical distancing outside of school but not always within. He also highlighted his leadership team’s efforts to engage with parent council chairpersons virtually.

The young people taking part also underlined their concerns in relation to SQA exams and the pressure ongoing assessment is putting on their peers. Asked the question of whether or not they were happy with the level of emotional support provided by schools and other education providers, their feedback was very positive.

Committee members this time were also keen to gain direct insight into young people’s experiences during the ongoing pandemic, how they are feeling, the impact of limited direct contact with their wider support network and how periods of self-isolation are affecting learning and teaching. It was clear that this continues to be a worrying time for all, that young people are making careful measured judgements about engaging with their extended family and friends, and that while they had not been directly affected by self-isolation they are aware of others who have found that this can contribute to a feeling of even greater pressure concerning exams.

Committee Chair Councillor Owen was keen to reassure all that the council is right behind all of its young people, and will ensure that feedback is heard at a senior level both locally and nationally.

The discussion also honed in on the importance of equitable access to IT equipment for young people if they are having to work remotely, the impact of lockdown and the fact that many young people are still catching up.

Looking forward to Christmas and the festivities, young representatives highlighted that they are trying to make the best of a difficult situation, coping with a lot of low mood and stress. Senior officers agreed it has been a long year, there is still a long winter ahead but it’s especially important that we all continue to support each other and there is light at the end of the tunnel.