We started working with UsforThem Scotland in mid-July. The campaign group had one specific objective: to ensure a normal return to school for children across Scotland. One of their priorities was to ensure children were not forced to wear facemasks in school. They argued there was little scientific evidence to show kids wearing coverings in school had any positive impact, and were worried about the consequences for vulnerable pupils. Below is just a snapshot of the newspaper coverage from that campaign. In addition, organiser Jo Bisset appeared on the STV evening news - the most watched news programme in Scotland - and on BBC 5live, Radio Scotland, Forth One and Clyde One.
The campaign went onto focus on other matters, such as reports children were being denied drinking water under Covid-19 measures. This piece appeared in the respected Thunderer column in the Times.
As the campaign went on, representatives from UsForThem Scotland also appeared on flagship news programmes, including STV's Scotland Tonight.
The group also made it onto the front page of the Telegraph with wider concerns about restrictions on children in class.
Among the many campaigns UsForThem Scotland are running is persuading the Scottish Government to run a full 2021 exam diet. The education secretary John Swinney stated his intention to scrap National 5s and enable Highers to go ahead if public health guidance allows. In England, the government's intention is for all exams to go ahead. This divergence was highlighted by the organisation in the Times.
To ramp things up, we began working on some research to show the impact lockdown was having on children. One discovery was that youngsters from poorer backgrounds were far more likely to miss school as a result of Covid-19 than those in wealthier areas. The story ran exclusively on p7 of the Scotland on Sunday, and was broadcast across commercial radio stations like Forth, Clyde and Tay throughout the day. https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/thousands-more-pupils-poorer-scots-areas-miss-school-during-c...
With the restrictions on lockdown tightening, some quarters started suggesting schools should close again. That's something UsForThem have been opposed to right from the start. A release demanding such moves are rejected was widely picked up, including on the front page of the Daily Express.
Also in the Daily Express, Jo Bisset wrote a first person piece about the importance of keeping schools open, even when stricter lockdown measures came into force.
As the Scottish Government's considered which level councils should enter into in terms of Covid-19 restrictions, there was talk of strike action among teaching unions if schools didn't shut in the worst-affected areas. UsForThem Scotland argued schools should stay open whatever the tier.
Towards the end of 2020, we conducted some research for UsForThem Scotland on the issue of missing children during lockdown. We found, through Freedom of Information, there had been a sharp rise in under 10s running away compared to the same period in 2019.
With increasing threats of schools being closed beyond the middle of January, Jo Bisset wrote in the Daily Record urging the Scottish Government to stick to its guns and keep the gates open. She also called for teachers to be moved straight to the front of the vaccination queue.
As school closures continued into February, UsForThem Scotland continued to raise concerns about the harm being caused to youngsters beyond their education.
More and more parents began to come forward to UsForThem Scotland to talk about the impact closures were having on their lives. Having failed to persuade politicians, they turned to the media to get their message out.
Concerns were also growing that while schools in England were back in full by early March, children in Scotland were only returning gradually. In some cases, this would only be for a couple of hours a week. Far from being a "part time" return, UsForThem Scotland described it as a "zero hours contract".
A Scottish Government report, unearthed by UfT, found more alarming information surrounding eating disorders among young people.
As schools gradually returned, reports from parents came in about requests for pupils to bring in unusual items...
And a mental health survey conducted by UsForThem Scotland made the pages of the Daily Mail.
Parents in the north of Scotland made contact to raise concerns about a 120-mile school trip. Any children who developed symptoms would be abandoned at the destination, with parents forced to embark on a four-hour round trip to collect them.
The group called for an end to isolation rules which have resulted in thousands of healthy pupils being sent home following contact with a positive case in school.
As schools returned for the 2021/22 academic year, there were concerns that - despite guidance to the contrary from government - schools and councils were sending children home too readily. Jo Bisset's concerns appeared on the front page of the Scottish Daily Mail.
The latest function of the school calendar to be under threat is in-person parents' evenings. Across Scotland councils are looking at alternatives like phone and video calls, blaming Covid restrictions. UFTScotland said this should not be the case given the rest of society is more or less back to normal.