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Publication - Report

Children's Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment - Development of a Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland

Published: 2 Nov 2016
Part of:
Children and families, Education
ISBN:
9781786525635

Details the findings of an assessment carried out in relation to the Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland.

17 page PDF

276.9kB

17 page PDF

276.9kB

Contents
Children's Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment - Development of a Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland
Children's Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment - Development of a Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland

17 page PDF

276.9kB

Children's Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment - Development of a Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland

Policy/measure

Development of a Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland.

Summary of policy aims and desired outcomes

The aim of the strategy is to create the conditions to allow digital technology to enrich learning and teaching across all parts of Curriculum for Excellence. This will help the Scottish Government realise its vision that all of Scotland's educators, learners and parents can take full advantage of the opportunities offered by digital technology in order to raise ambition, attainment and opportunities for all.

Directorate; Division; Team

Learning Directorate
People and Infrastructure Division
Digital Learning and Teaching Team

Executive Summary

The Scottish Government recognises the potential of digital technology to enhance learning and teaching right across the curriculum, to contribute to improved educational outcomes and to equip learners with vital digital skills for life, learning and work. A new Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland will be developed to help realise these benefits.

As the strategy will have a direct impact on children, a children's rights and wellbeing impact assessment was carried out. This assessed the likely impact of the strategy on the relevant articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child and the relevant Scottish Government child wellbeing ( GIRFEC) indicators.

The assessment found that the strategy will have a positive impact on the following children's rights and wellbeing indicators.

Rights of the UN Convention

  • Right that decisions involving children consider the best interest of children
  • Right of parents/carers to have their views respected in line with the evolving capacity of a child
  • Right of children to have their views respected
  • Right of children to have freedom of expression
  • Right of children to have access to information
  • Rights of children with a disability
  • Right to education
  • Right to leisure, play and culture

Scottish Government wellbeing ( GIRFEC) indicators

  • Achieving
  • Respected
  • Responsible
  • Included
  • Active

The impact assessment also found that the strategy may unintentionally have a negative impact on the following rights and wellbeing indicators.

Rights of the UN Convention

  • Right to protection and provision of identity
  • Right to privacy
  • Right to access information from the mass media (in particular the duty of governments to try and protect children from material that is injurious)
  • Right to health and health services
  • Right to be protected from sexual exploitation
  • Right to be protected from other forms of exploitation

Scottish Government wellbeing indicators

  • Safe
  • Healthy

In recognition of these findings, a number of options for modifying the strategy were considered and recommendations of how to mitigate or eliminate these risks have been made.

In respect of rights that may be impinged upon due to the inherent dangers of internet usage, it was decided that the strategy should place an expectation on local authorities and education establishments to ensure that cyber resilience and internet safety are central considerations during all digital technology use within education. The Scottish Government and Education Scotland will support local authorities and education establishments to realise this expectation.

In respect of the risk that increased use of digital technology may harm a child's health, it was decided that no action should be taken. This was in recognition that evidence is inconclusive. However, it is recommended that evidence in this area continue to be monitored and reviewed on a regular basis.

A plan for monitoring the impact of the strategy on children's rights and wellbeing using a biennial targeted consultation is also contained in the report.

Background

A growing body of international evidence shows that digital technology can enrich learning and teaching and lead to improved educational outcomes for all learners. [1] Digital learning and teaching will also help Scotland's learners develop vital digital skills which will be needed in an increasingly digitised economy. [2]

At present, these opportunities are not being fully realised. Education Scotland's technologies impact report [3] recommended that "digital skills and technologies be given an absolutely central role in the learning process - no longer an enhancement or 'bolt-on', but a foundation and a primary consideration for any planned learning."

The Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland will help to create the conditions to allow digital technology to enrich learning and teaching across Curriculum for Excellence. This will help to realise the Scottish Government's vision that all of Scotland's educators, learners and parents take full advantage of the opportunities offered by digital technology in order to raise attainment, ambition and opportunities for all.

The strategy will be built upon four objectives:

  • develop the skills and confidence of educators in the appropriate and effective use of digital technology to support learning and teaching;
  • improve access to digital technology for all learners;
  • ensure that digital technology is a central consideration in all areas of curriculum and assessment delivery; and
  • empower leaders of change to drive innovation and investment in digital technology for learning and teaching.

Implementing the strategy will have a direct impact on all children in school or early years education in Scotland. It was therefore necessary to carry out a children's rights and wellbeing impact assessment ( CRWIA).

Scope of the CRWIA

The CRWIA assessed the impact the strategy will have on all children in Scotland in school or early years education (approximately 877,347 [4] ).

The articles of the of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child ( UNCRC) [5] relevant to the CRWIA were:

  • Article 3 - The best interests of the child
  • Article 5 - Parental guidance and a child's evolving capacities
  • Article 8 - Protection and provision of identity
  • Article 12 - Respect for the views of a child
  • Article 13 - Freedom of expression
  • Article 16 - Right to privacy
  • Article 17 - Right to access information from the mass media
  • Article 23 - Rights of children with a disability
  • Article 24 - Right to health and health services
  • Article 28 - Right to education
  • Article 31 - Right to leisure, play and culture
  • Article 34 - Protection from sexual exploitation
  • Article 36 - Protection form other forms of exploitation

The Scottish Government child wellbeing indicators [6] (Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible and Included) relevant to the CRWIA were:

  • Safe
  • Healthy
  • Achieving
  • Active
  • Respected
  • Responsible
  • Included

In assessing the impact of the strategy on the above rights and wellbeing indicators a broad evidence base was collated. This included input from stakeholders and four consultation exercises, two of which specifically collected the views of children and young people [7] . A number of studies, reports and surveys were also considered as part of the impact assessment.

Children and young people's views and experiences

As part of the CRWIA process, the Scottish Government commissioned the Children's Parliament and Young Scot to carry out consultation exercises with young people in Scotland. The views collected were considered as part of the CRWIA. The Children's Parliament consulted with children aged 8-11 years and Young Scot consulted with young people aged 11-25 years. Both consultation exercises sought to collect young people's views on digital learning and teaching.

The Young Scot consultation exercise found that:

"…young people find that digital technology is an important learning aid in the classroom, a tool for revision, provides an interactive learning experience and gives them a quick way to access information. However, they feel that in general resources within their schools are low, can be unreliable and can be misused, and they felt that, in many cases teachers lack the knowledge on how to use the digital technology they have". [8]

The Children's Parliament consultation exercise found that:

Children use a variety of digital devices, the majority have access to a personal device, in general they know more about digital devices than their parents, they have an informed understanding of the possible dangers that arise from having access to digital technology however, sometimes they choose not to report negative experiences, they all have access to digital technology in school but their exposure depends on the availability of equipment and the knowledge of the teacher, they feel that technology can enhance learning and make it more fun and in general and they would like to see more technology in education as long as it is not overused [9] .

Key Findings

To include impact on UNCRC rights and contribution to wellbeing indicators

The impacts on the relevant articles of the UNCRC were assessed as follows:

Article 3 - The best interests of the child

In all actions involving children, the best interests of the child shall be the primary consideration.

The evidence collected suggests that appropriate and effective use of digital technology in education can help to improve educational outcomes. [10] Furthermore, digital learning and teaching will help to equip learners with digital skills that will become essential in an increasingly digitised economy. [11] Improving educational outcomes and developing skills for employment are in the best interest of children in Scotland and therefore the strategy will have a positive impact on this article.

Article 5 - Parental guidance and a child's evolving capacity

The rights, responsibilities and duties of parents or other person legally responsible for the child must be respected, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacity of the child.

The evidence available indicates that parents are generally supportive of digital learning and teaching [12] . They see it as a useful learning tool and a good way for children to learn the digital skills that they will need in future employment. It is unlikely that parents will be resistant to the new strategy however; care should be taken to ensure that parents are kept appropriately informed as the strategy is implemented. Most education establishments already have mechanisms for keeping parents involved in their child's learning and the strategy will not change that. It is therefore likely that there will be a neutral impact on this article.

Article 8 - Protection of identity

Children have the right to preserve their identity, including nationality, name and family relations without unlawful interference.

It is likely that implementation of the strategy will lead to children in school and early years education in Scotland having an increased online presence. There is a danger that; as children spend more time online they are more likely to input personal details into a variety of online platforms and consequently the risk of identity theft increases [13] . There is a potentially negative impact on this article so details of how to mitigate this risk must be considered.

Article 12 - Respect for the views of a child

Children capable of forming and expressing views have the right to do so in matters affecting children. Their views should be given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

The evidence collected from the consultation exercises aimed at children and young people suggests that school aged children in Scotland are supportive of digital learning and teaching. Any concerns they do have seem to be linked to problems that the strategy hopes to overcome e.g. lack of resources, insufficient digital infrastructure and teachers lacking the appropriate skills, confidence and knowledge. [14] It was therefore deemed that there would be a positive impact on this article.

Article 13 - Freedom of expression

Children have the right to freedom of expression and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds subject to restrictions provided by law.

The strategy will lead to an increase in internet access, an increase in the amount of information children have access to and an increase in the ways children can express views and share information. It was therefore deemed that the strategy would have a positive impact on this article.

Article 16 - Right to privacy

No child should be subject to unlawful interference with his or her privacy, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her reputation.

Implementation of the strategy will lead to children in school and early years education in Scotland having an increased online presence. There is a danger that; as children spend more time online they are more likely to input personal details into a variety of online platforms and consequently a risk to privacy occurs [13] . In addition, the article states that governments must protect children from unlawful attacks on their reputation. The evidence available suggests that there is a danger that allowing children increased access to the internet can, in some cases, lead to online attacks on their peers [15] . There is therefore a potentially negative impact on this article so details of how to mitigate these risks must be considered.

Article 17 - Access to information from the media

Children have the right to access information and material from a diversity of national and international sources. The creation of guidance that protects children from information and material injurious to them should be encouraged.

Through facilitating an increase of internet usage in education, the strategy will result in children having increased access to information from the media. There will therefore be a largely positive impact on this article. However, the article also states that children should be protected from materials that could harm them. In order to ensure that this right is not impinged upon, the strategy and the associated implementation plans should contain measures that will promote internet safety and digital citizenship.

Article 23 - Children with a disability

Children with a mental of physical disability should enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child's active participation in the community.

A fairly substantial evidence base [16] suggests that digital technologies can assist learners with additional support needs to achieve improved educational outcomes including higher attainment levels. The strategy will therefore have a positive impact on this article.

Article 24 - Health and health services

Children have the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health.

Much of the research in this area is contradictory. Some studies have concluded that digital technology and in particular exposure to Wi-Fi can have a detrimental effect on a child's health [17] . Despite this there is a lack of conclusive evidence detailing if increased exposure to digital technology can have a negative or positive impact on a child's mental or physical health [18] . There may however be some indirect impacts that relate to excessive use of digital technology in a classroom: eye strain, headaches, repetitive strain injury, muscular aches etc. The strategy could then make reference to the health and safety considerations that should be undertaken as part of the implementation of digital learning and teaching.

Article 28 - Right to education

Children have the right to education.

The evidence collected suggests that learners who cannot attend their education establishment regularly can benefit greatly from the use of digital technology [19] . This can help them undertake online distance learning and keep up with their work. The strategy is therefore likely to have a positive impact on this article.

Article 31 - Right to leisure, play and culture

Children have the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

The strategy has the potential to help learners to access information on a range of different leisure, recreational and cultural activities. In addition, digital technology can act as a platform for a number of newly developed recreational activities.

Article 34 - Protection from sexual exploitation

Children have the right to be protected from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.

Implementation of the strategy will lead to children in school and early years education in Scotland having an increased online presence. There is a danger that; as children spend more time online they become more exposed to the danger of being sexually exploited [20] . There is therefore a potential negative impact on this article so details of how to mitigate this risk must be considered.

Article 36 - Protection from other forms of exploitation

Children have the right to be protected from all forms of exploitation prejudicial to any aspects of a child's welfare.

Implementation of the strategy will lead to children in school and early years education in Scotland having an increased online presence. There is a danger that; as children spend more time online they become more exposed to the danger of being exploited [20] . There is therefore a potential negative impact on this article so details of how to mitigate this risk must be considered.

The impacts on the relevant wellbeing indicators were assessed as follows:

Safe

Children are protected from abuse, neglect or harm at home, at school and in the community.

Much of the evidence collected and cited above highlights the potential dangers that children could face when allowed to access the internet. These include: risk of identity theft; loss of privacy; risk of sexual and other forms of exploitation and exposure to harmful materials. There is however, a potential positive impact on this indicator. By exposing children to digital technology and online resources in a safe educational environment, they can be educated in the risks and benefits of such activities. This is a more desirable situation than allowing children to have most of their access outside of education where guidance is not always guaranteed. In recognition of the potential negative contribution to this wellbeing indicator, the strategy and action plans should contain measures which seek to mitigate the risks mentioned above.

Healthy

Children have the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health, access to suitable healthcare and support in learning to make healthy and safe choices.

As referenced above, there is a growing body of contradictory evidence referring to how the use of digital technology can have an impact on a child's mental and physical health. As this evidence base is inconclusive, it is not possible to say that the strategy will not potentially have a negative contribution to this wellbeing indicator. The final strategy and associated action plans could reference health considerations that education establishments and local authorities must make. It should be noted that there are also potential positive impacts on health as the strategy will also open up opportunities in the field of health education.

Achieving

Children are supported and guided in their learning and in the development of their skills, confidence and self-esteem at home, at school and in the community.

The evidence available suggests that, if implemented correctly, digital learning and teaching can have a positive impact on a number of educational outcomes such as: raising attainment; reducing inequalities; improving transitions into employment; enhancing parental engagement and improving the efficiency of the education system [16] . It is also evident that an increase in digital learning and teaching can start to embed digital skills that all learners will require in a digitised economy [11] . It is therefore deemed that there will be a positive impact on this wellbeing indicator.

Active

Children have the opportunity to take part in activities such as play, recreation and sport which contribute to healthy growth and development, both at home and in the community.

There is some evidence to suggest that an increase in the use of digital technology can lead to children developing sedentary lifestyles [21] . However, the strategy does not aim to eliminate physical activities undertaken by children; it aims to supplement traditional classroom teaching with digital teaching. In this sense, digital technology has the potential to enhance lessons in physical education. It is therefore unlikely that there will be a negative effect on this wellbeing indicator.

Respected

Children have the opportunity, along with carers, to be heard and involved in decisions that affect them.

From the evidence collected it can be concluded that both children and parents/carers are broadly supportive of the use of digital technology in learning and teaching [22] . It is therefore deemed that the strategy will have a positive impact on this wellbeing indicator.

Responsible

Children have opportunities and are encouraged to play active and responsible roles in their schools and communities and, where necessary, having appropriate guidance and supervision and being involved in decisions that affect them.

Although some of the evidence cited above highlights the dangers of use of digital technology, the strategy presents an opportunity for children to become educated in these dangers and become responsible technology users. There is therefore a chance to have a positive impact on this wellbeing indicator.

Included

Children having help to overcome social, educational, physical and economic inequalities and being accepted as part of the community in which they live and learn.

There is a growing body of evidence showing that the use of digital technology can aid learners with additional support needs [10] . In addition, digital learning and teaching can help children who undertake distance learning. It is deemed that the strategy will have a positive impact on this wellbeing indicator.

Conclusions and Recommendations

From the evidence collected it is possible to conclude that a new Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland will have mainly positive impact on the rights and wellbeing of the children it will impact on; those in early years and school education in Scotland. This includes a positive impact on the following rights and wellbeing indicators:

  • Right that decisions involving children consider the best interest of children;
  • Right of parents/carers to have their views respected in line with the evolving capacity of a child;
  • Right of children to have their views respected;
  • Right of children to have freedom of expression;
  • Right of children to have access to information;
  • Rights of children with a disability;
  • Right to education;
  • Right to leisure, play and culture;
  • Active;
  • Achieving;
  • Responsible; and
  • Included

The process has however highlighted ways in which the strategy may unintentionally infringe upon the rights and wellbeing of children. These risks include:

  • An increased risk of children being victims of identity theft;
  • A risk of children experiencing a decrease in privacy;
  • An increased risk of children being exposed to inappropriate material;
  • An increased risk of children being subject to exploitation including sexual exploitation; and
  • A risk of a child experiencing a negative impact on their health.

It was therefore necessary to develop options detailing how the strategy could be modified to ensure that the above risks are mitigated. The options developed are discussed in turn below.

Risks inherent to internet usage

The first four risks listed above (risk of identity theft, risks to privacy, risk of exploitation and risk of exposure to inappropriate material) are all inherent to internet usage. It is therefore not possible to completely eliminate these risks but similar measures can be implemented to mitigate all of them. It is useful therefore to group these risks together when assessing options.

Option 1 - Do Nothing

The strategy will seek to increase the amount of digital technology used in education however, digital learning and teaching is not a new thing. Most education establishments already incorporate digital technology into their teaching to some extent and they will already have developed guidelines regarding safe and appropriate internet usage. The strategy could therefore remain silent on internet safety and cyber resilience. This will allow education establishments to continue to implement the guidance that they have developed at a local level.

Positives of option 1

This option allows local authorities and education establishments the flexibility to address the issue of internet safety and cyber resilience in a way that works best in their local context. This may be more favourable than trying to implement a 'one size fits all' solution.

Negatives of option 1

If the strategy does not reference risks that have been clearly identified, education establishments may not protect against these risks and learners may be adversely affected.

Option 2 - The Scottish Government creates comprehensive guidance that covers all areas of internet safety

In recognition of the internet safety risks that have been identified in the CRWIA, the Scottish Government could produce comprehensive internet safety guidance to supplement the final strategy.

Positives of option 2

Producing comprehensive guidance would ensure that local authorities and education establishments were well supported in mitigating internet safety risks. If comprehensive guidance was available from the Scottish Government it is likely that the risk to learners would decrease.

Negatives of option 2

Comprehensive Scottish Government guidance would appear as a 'one size fits all' solution to local authorities and education establishments. It is possible that this would be discourage implementation of solutions that work best in their local contexts.

Option 3 - The strategy provides guidance on aspects of internet safety, but stops short of providing comprehensive guidance

The strategy could outline what areas of internet safety should be considered when digital learning and teaching is being implemented. It would not however be prescriptive about how education establishments mitigate risks.

Positives of option 3

The option will help to ensure that education establishments consider all of the relevant aspects of internet safety. In addition, as the guidance is not prescriptive it will allow education establishments to implement strategies which work best in their local context.

Negatives of option 3

There is a danger that as the guidance is of a high level and lacks detail, education establishments and local authorities may not fully investigate risks and as such learners are exposed to increased danger online.

Recommendation

Option 3 is recommended as it will ensure that cyber resilience and internet safety are given sufficient prominence in the strategy while also allowing local authorities and education establishments to consider how these issues that can be best addressed in their local contexts. It is recommended that the final strategy should place an expectation on education establishments and local authorities to ensure that cyber resilience and internet safety are central considerations during all digital technology use within education. The Scottish Government and Education Scotland will support local authorities and education establishments to realise this expectation.

Risks to health

Option 1 - Do nothing

The strategy remains silent on health risks upon publication but evidence in this area is monitored regularly.

Positives of option 1

As the evidence in this area is inconclusive it is difficult to provide informed guidance on this topic. Remaining silent on this issue avoids the possibility of unsubstantiated guidance being issued to local authorities and education establishments.

Negatives of option 1

Although evidence in this area is inconclusive, some of it is not without weight. Remaining silent on the issues could then further endanger children.

Option 2 - Produce guidance

In recognition of the potential risks to health, the Scottish Government could produce guidance that will be published along with the strategy.

Positives of option 2

Producing guidance implements a 'safety first' approach. Such an approach is unlikely to lead to an increased risk to children.

Negatives of option 2

As the evidence in this area is inconclusive it would be impossible to ensure that the guidance produced was comprehensive or correct. This could be misleading for education establishments and local authorities.

Recommendation

As the evidence in this area is inconclusive it is recommended that the strategy does not reference health risks however, the situation will be kept under review and guidance will be developed if it becomes clear that digital technology can have a detrimental impact on the health of children.

Monitoring and review

The impact of the policy on children's rights and wellbeing will be monitored every two years by way of targeted consultation. The results of this biennial review will influence the continued evolution of the policy.

Responsible Official: Liam Cahill
Responsible Team: Digital Learning and Teaching Team, Learning Directorate, Scottish Government.

CRWIA Declaration

CRWIA required

CRWIA not required

Yes

Authorisation

Policy lead

Liam Cahill
Digital Learning and Teaching Policy Officer
People and Infrastructure Division
Learning Directorate

Date

19 October 2016

Deputy Director or equivalent

Clare Hicks
Deputy Director
People and Infrastructure Division
Learning Directorate

Date

19 October 2016


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