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Shilla Shomai

Promise Officer - Enquire

Shilla joined Enquire in February 2024 as Promise Officer, focused on the educational rights of care-experienced young people.

Shomai is a PhD student at the University of Worcester and is passionate about promoting children’s rights.

Her research, entitled ‘A Comparative Study of Care-experienced Parenting in Scotland and England: The Interplay of Solidarity, Attachment, and Social Capital’ examines the parenting experiences of care experienced parents in Scotland and England.

Leveraging her lived experiences, Shilla has influenced governmental policies and practices, advancing the educational and social outcomes for care experienced young people and care leavers.

Previously, Shilla worked as an ambassador for Who Cares? Scotland and advocated for care experienced individuals in key settings, including the Scottish Parliament, United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) members, Commission on Widening Access Board, Scottish Legal Aid Board, NHS, and colleges and universities across Scotland.

With an MA in Childhood, Youth, and Social Policy, her academic background and passion align seamlessly with organisations championing children's rights.

Taking steps towards a more inclusive education system

From 29 January-4 February, schools and youth organisations across Scotland will participate in Welcome to Your Vote Week 2024.

Catherine Heggie, Senior Communications & Engagement Officer at the Electoral Commission, explains how to get involved.

Young people who receive democratic education at school or in a youth group setting are more likely to participate in elections and believe that their vote matters.

To support schools, youth groups, colleges and universities to start the conversation about democracy, we’ve created free, impartial resources, and we’re encouraging anyone who works with young people to get involved during Welcome to Your Vote Week.

The theme for this year’s campaign is ‘Your Voice Matters’, celebrating that everyone can make an impact on the issues important to them by getting involved in democracy, whether through voting in elections, taking part in a school council or campaigning on an issue that matters to them.

Our year-round education resources are available to support you to get involved. These include a series of lesson plans, tailored to the curriculum and wider outcomes, such as the UNICEF Rights Respecting School Award and Sustainable Development Goals, interactive activities, quizzes and videos.

This year we’ve also launched new resources to help schools and youth organisations organise a real, issue-based vote, to provide opportunities for young people to use their voices and see democracy in action.

This could be a smaller-scale vote within a class, year group or youth group, or across a whole school or organisation. The topic of the vote could be anything from which charity to donate funds to, where to visit on a school or youth group trip, or a change in uniform policy. The key is that you commit to the outcome of the vote, so that the young people can see the impact their voices have made.

Whether you choose to get involved by organising a vote, running lessons or interactive activities, or something completely different, let us know what you get up to on social media using #WelcomeToYourVote.

Click here to find out more about Welcome to Your Vote Week and sign up to receive your free resources

About the author

Catherine Heggie, Senior Communications & Engagement Officer at the Electoral Commission

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Participation and Engagement work

Find out more about how we embed the inclusion and participation of children and young people in our work

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Our services

We offer we offer a range of services that provide support, advice and representation for children and families

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Our membership offer

Be part of the largest national children's sector membership organisation in Scotland

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Explore Therapeutic Life Story Work as Diploma course launches for 2024 

Ahead of the Autumn 2024 Diploma course in Therapeutic Life Story Work (TLSW), Children in Scotland is offering a free information session, taking place on Tuesday 20 February, for anyone interested in finding out more about the course and its content.

Delivered by course director, Richard Rose, of Therapeutic Life Story Work International (click here for more), the special event is a one-hour online session, that will offer everything participants need to know about the groundbreaking training, from how it works to what kind of commitment the Diploma will involve from students, and will also include a Q&A.

TLSW enables children and young people who have experienced the trauma of child abuse and neglect, and who are struggling with the pain of their past, to reflect, develop compassion for themselves and move forward. The Diploma is a comprehensive 12-day course based on Professor Richard Rose's Life Story Therapy with Traumatised Children - A Model for Practice (2012), designed to equip participants with the skills, knowledge and experience to undertake TLSW with children and young people. 

Ahead of the 2024 intake, Children in Scotland spoke to previous attendees, from St. Andrew’s Children’s Society, who shared the significant impact studying for the Diploma has had on their work.  

Emma Quinn, Social Worker at St. Andrew’s Children’s Society said: 

“I began the TLSW training in September 2022, and I was relatively new to my role and social work having qualified just under two years prior. I wasn’t sure what to expect, nor was I sure if I had enough experience to undertake the Diploma in Therapeutic Life Story Work, however, from the outset I recall it being such a welcoming, inclusive, and nurturing learning environment that I felt right at home.   

Richard Rose has a wealth of knowledge at his disposal, along with a variety of guest speakers - the training is engaging and supportive. I really enjoyed the fact that right from the start we were utilising our wallpapers and working together on what sessions would look like as this really brings the theory to life.

I found undertaking the Diploma has improved my overall confidence with discussing theory and delivering direct work right from the start. If you are lucky enough to have an assigned case for TLSW at the start of the course, each block carries you through the stages you will roughly be at which again, I found really helpful to ask questions, discover resources and really just to make sure I was on the right track.   

I honestly use bits from the Diploma every day in work, whether that be quick activities with children and young people that don’t require many resources (dots game, squiggle), or the preoccupation chart to explain to prospective adopters the importance of self-care and being aware of our own emotions, to the sticky note of attachment to discuss how multiple moves can impact on a child’s ability to attach and feel safe with their adopters. If I could, I would happily do this course again, and there are not many courses you could say that for!” 

Tim Rogerson also a Social Worker at St. Andrew’s Children’s Society, said: 

“I have been lucky enough to be granted the opportunity to undertake the TLSW Diploma. Having completed half of the training blocks so far, this has already allowed me to consolidate my existing understanding of my role as a social work practitioner, to explore the theoretical perspectives that underpin the TLSW model, and to equip me with some highly practical and creative tools to carry out any counselling work I do in my role as a fostering and adoption social worker. I am just over two years qualified now, and already I can see the benefits to my current practice, in all aspects of my work at St Andrew’s Children’s Society, whether it be in my assessment of prospective adopters, any trainings I have helped deliver, or in any direct adoption counselling work I undertake.

“During my social work degree, and in my previous adoption counselling work at the agency, 'use of self' was a construct I have long been familiar with. At some level, I feel I have intuitively known this in any of the work I have done throughout my life which has involved helping others, whether it be those with disabilities, mental health difficulties or in my role as a support worker of older adults, many of whom were in their last days. Since undertaking the TLSW Diploma, I feel I have been granted a greater appreciation for the importance of the underlying process of this work, its value, and in knowing not only what I do as a practitioner, but why.” 

Click here to find out more about the TLSW Diploma, or to sign up for the free taster session

Therapeutic Life Story Work (TLSW)

A comprehensive course to equip you with the skills, knowledge and experience to undertake TLSW

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What is the TLSW Diploma?

Find out more about the Diploma course from Professor Richard Rose

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The Children in Scotland Podcast

Previous episodes include Richard Rose on TLSW, and a look at how our learning programme is developed

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Learning opportunities 2024

Discover our learning programme for the year ahead

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Annual Conference 2024

Book now for Children in Scotland's Annual Conference 2024 - 29-30 May, Edinburgh

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Our membership offer

Be part of the largest national children's sector membership organisation in Scotland

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David Yule

Policy, Projects and Participation Officer

David joined Children in Scotland as Policy, Projects and Participation Officer in January 2024. Before joining Children in Scotland, he worked as a participation officer at the Scottish Youth Parliament and in other policy and project roles at the organisation. He was also previously a volunteer youth worker with LGBT+ young people.

David has completed an MSc in Social Policy & Research and has since applied this learning within the children's rights sector working on projects to enhance children and young people's meaningful participation in local and national decision-making.

Outside of work David spends time with friends and family, cooking or eating.

Ellen Morton

Advice and Information Officer - Enquire

Ellen joined Enquire as an Advice and Information Officer in January 2024.

Prior to this she worked as a primary school teacher in Gaelic-medium education in Glasgow. She took a particular interest in supporting children with additional needs in bilingual education. She has also worked with children in other parts of the world, including Honduras, Uganda and New York City. She is currently studying for a Masters Degree in Gaelic Education.

Ellen is a fluent Gaelic speaker who sings in the Glasgow Gaelic choir. She also plays the fiddle and enjoys playing at sessions in Glasgow. She loves travel and spent last summer helping with the coffee harvest in the mountains of Peru.

Further phase of national arts funding announced, as Access All Arts report launches

Following a second successful year delivering the Access All Arts Fund, Children in Scotland has today launched the Final Report for year two and announced a third round of funding for 2024.

Funded by Creative Scotland, the Access All Arts Fund supports young people with disabilities, additional support needs, or other financial, social or mental health barriers to the arts to apply for funding for a range of arts activities, from ceramics and painting to music and dance.

The report on this year’s delivery comes ahead of a new round of funding, which will open for applications in the new year.  

Applicant data from year two demonstrated the wide-ranging demand for, and impact of, the Fund on young people across Scotland. Funds were awarded to 161 applicants from 28 local authorities, with an average age of 16. A total of £86,040.89 was distributed to support their activities.  

Evidence from this year’s evaluation demonstrates the overwhelmingly positive impact of the fund on the young people involved. Nearly 92% of respondents to the participant survey said the Fund had had a positive impact on their mental health and wellbeing, while 82% said that receiving funding had helped them to overcome barriers to the arts. 

David Mackay, Head of Policy, Projects and Participation, said: 

“We are thrilled that Creative Scotland has recognised the important impact that the Access All Arts Fund is having in empowering young people. From our report, it is clear that the programme is reaching young people with a range of barriers to the arts, improving their mental health and wellbeing and encouraging new learning opportunities. We are really looking forward to delivering the Fund for a third year in 2024, and again seeing the many creative ways in which children and young people can express themselves.”  

The report also captured direct feedback from Fund recipients. One commented: 

“I am autistic, ADHD and Tourette's so find accessing classes for guitar very difficult, but now I have my own one I can learn at home. I am chilled and do not tic when I am playing guitar. I feel I have been acknowledged and listened to.”  

Another said: 

“It has made a difference to the barriers I have faced as a young care-experienced person with mental health problems. Being able to access the new skills and have the right equipment makes a huge difference. I can see that with support to develop I do have the opportunity to make good progress.” 

Click here to read the full report 

Click here to find out more about the Access All Arts Fund - and keep an eye on our social media channels for announcements about the next round of funding.  

Access All Arts Fund - Year 2 report

Find out more about the activity and successes during the second year of the Fund

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Access All Arts Fund

The fund helps young people in Scotland to access creative arts opportunities to support their wellbeing

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Year one success

More than 100 young people took forward arts projects as a result of Phase 1 funding (Image by AAA awardee)

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Partner: Creative Scotland

The Access All Arts Fund is part of Creative Scotland's Nurturing Talent Fund New Route Programme

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Plans, opportunities and offers: Children in Scotland's Annual Conference 2024

With Children in Scotland's flagship event returning in 2024, the organisation's Head of Engagement and Learning, Simon Massey, discusses the event's aims and the planning that's taking place

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, our flagship Annual Conference returned in November 2022. It was great to see the Children in Scotland team host a fantastic event, bringing together a range of keynote speakers and workshops delivered by our friends and partners across the sector, with children and young people’s voices embedded at all stages of planning and delivery.  

We tried a hybrid model, incorporating online and in-person delivery, but it didn’t work, so we won’t be doing that again. But, a more successful element of the conference, students from Edinburgh College of Art – who partner with us to provide illustrations for our member publication, 'Insight' – creating visual representations of the discussions, will be back in 2024!  

In planning our annual conference, one key factor we reflected on was just how ‘busy’ November is for the children’s sector, with a number of big-ticket events taking place. People have to make a choice about which event they go to, either due to cost or time out of work. In light of this, we made the decision to move our Annual Conference to May to try and allow a bit more space for people to be able to attend  different events.  

This meant the conference took another break in 2023 – although having delivered a successful Mental Health conference, Early Years conference and 30th Anniversary Networking event, the word ‘break’ might raise eyebrows in our Learning & Events team!  

Annual Conference 2024  

We are pleased to announce that the Children in Scotland Annual Conference 2024 is confirmed. It’s happening on Wednesday 29-Thursday 30 May 2024, at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, its home for a number of years. The venue allows us lots of space for delegates, keynotes and workshops plus the Exhibition Hall, which goes from strength-to-strength each year.  

We are currently working on the conference content and will get the full programme launched as soon as we can. We will also announce key speakers, workshops and sponsors during the first few months of 2024.  

One of our Strategic priorities is to ‘Lead and develop the children sector workforce’, and the Annual Conference being a key part of our efforts to this. But its success is all down to the involvement of you, our network. Whether you attend as a delegate, become one of our sponsors, facilitate a workshop, deliver a keynote presentation or showcase your organisation in our Exhibition Hall, your input is crucial to the two days.  

We will soon be confirming the conference themes, which will remain broad because we view the event as an opportunity to show the wide range of activity across the children’s sector. Saying that, we know children and young people’s voices and equality, diversity and inclusion will run through all aspects of the event.  

We will be reaching out to people over the coming weeks to help deliver the conference. We’ll be looking for chairs, keynote speakers and discussion panel members, so if you have any ideas about who should be involved, or maybe you would like to be yourself, then please get in touch via  

Got a workshop idea?  

Our Annual Conference 2022 saw 24 workshops delivered from the widest range of organisations yet, covering a breadth of subjects relevant to those working with children and families. We want to build on that for 2024 so we have created a short online application form for any organisations working with children and young people across Scotland to put forward its ideas.  

As mentioned, the Annual Conference will remain very broad, so we are fully open to all ideas and suggestions for workshops. We ask that you consider how the voices of children and young people are embedded or shared and that issues of equality, diversity and inclusion are also considered. As well as that, we want to hear about the great work you are delivering, innovation in your specialist areas, research you’ve undertaken and what you are doing with it, and how you are making a difference to the lives of children in Scotland.  

Click here to send us your ideas via the online application form
This has all the information you’ll need and asks questions to make sure you provide us with the information we need.

The closing date for you to submit your workshop idea is Thursday 29 February 2024.  

Super early bird prices  

For those of you who follow Children in Scotland on social media, you’ll know that a super early bird ticket offer was launched in early November. This offer will end on Sunday 31 December, with higher prices in place from 1 January 2024, so if you already know that you want to join us at the conference, make the most of the offer!

If you’re not able to book at this stage, rest assured we work hard to keep the prices as low as we can and there will be discounts for Children in Scotland Members.

Looking forward  

I’m really pleased that we are ending this year officially launching the Children in Scotland Annual Conference 2024. We want to hit the ground running in January so please do give some thought to whether it would be a good opportunity to showcase your work or give a platform to the children and young people you work with.  

And most importantly, please come and join us in May!

About the author

Simon Massey is Head of Engagement & Learning at Children in Scotland

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Annual Conference 2024

Stay up to date with conference planning and announcements

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Sponsorship and Exhibition

Find out more about the sponsorship and exhibitor packages available

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Submit a workshop idea

Share the work you are delivering and research you are undertaking

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The Children in Scotland Podcast

Episode 24 explores building a learning programme for the children's sector

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Our 2021-2026 Manifesto

Explore the key changes in policy and legislation we believe the Scottish Government must make

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Our 2023-28 Strategic Plan

Explore the plan, 'A Scotland where all children can flourish'

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Our Vision and Values

Find out more about the values that set out our organisational beliefs and qualities

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Changing our World

Find out more about our children and young people's advisory group

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Our membership offer

Be part of the largest national children's sector membership organisation in Scotland

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Our services

We offer we offer a range of services that provide support, advice and representation for children and families

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Susie Dalton

Participation and Communications Office - My Rights, My Say

Susie joined My Rights, My Say as Participation and Communications Officer in December 2023. She is involved in establishing and developing a new young people’s advisory group in the service. She also contributes to the My Rights, My Say communications activity.

She is also a practicing artist, holding an MFA in Fine Art from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee. She loves using her creativity when working with young people to make the most of their brilliant ideas and to provide meaningful ways for their voices and experiences to be heard.

When not working, Susie loves being outside, making art, dancing, and cosying up with a good book.

Making cyber security fun for children

As the issue of staying safe online impacts people in their personal and professional lives, Frances O’Neill, founder of Story Learning, discusses a project that is advocating for cyber resilience skills to be developed in the early years

Children are growing up in a digital world. According to a recent report by Ofcom, 97% of children in the UK have access to the internet with 86% of 5-7-year-olds using tablet devices to go online.

As a result of living in a hyper-connected digital environment, cyber-attacks on banks and businesses and the hacking of our personal information are ever-present dangers. We all need to be vigilant and improve our cyber resilience skills and the earlier we learn these skills, the better.

We don’t want children to be like some grown-ups who use the same password for everything; we want to embed good cyber resilience skills in our early years learners.

We are hardwired to remember stories, and this is why stories have been used as a way to teach people since the beginning of time.

Together with Education Scotland we have created a storybook 'The Bongles and The Crafty Crows' (click here to visit the website) with a rhyming story that encourages young children to recognise the importance of creating difficult to guess passcodes and passwords. The story follows the Bongles characters trying to keep their treasure secure from the crafty crows who are rather good at ‘shoulder surfing’ and cracking codes.

'The Bongles and The Crafty Crows' is the latest in a series of illustrated children's books, ebooks, and animated audiobooks that tell imaginative, funny, and eco-friendly stories about the Bongles characters. The Bongles are colourful bouncy creatures who reuse, repair, and upcycle objects that wash up onto the pristine shores of their paradise-like island.

The book, which is also available in Gaelic, raises awareness of the importance of secure passcodes and strong passwords made up of three random words. The animation, games and learning activities on the website reinforce this message (click here to view the website). The aim is to help children navigate their digital world safely and more securely.

Our vision is that good ‘cyber hygiene’ becomes embedded in early years learners and that the children encourage good practice at home, teaching their parents and carers about the importance of cyber resilience.

Sixty thousand books are being distributed to every Primary 1 pupil in Scotland. Education Scotland is running a series of webinars, and these are reaching thousands of children.

We developed the story with children, and they even came up with the name of the book. The story is filled with wonderful ideas from the children’s amazing creative imaginations, and it speaks directly to them.

Education Scotland set up a group of advisory teachers who tested the story with their five-year-old pupils, so children have been at the heart of this project from the outset. The advisory group of teachers also developed the learning activities; there are 14 different lesson plans for parents and carers to download and use at school or at home.

We believe this storybook for early years learners is a world first. With this book, Scotland wants to create a cyber resilient nation and we hope this innovative initiative inspires other governments to follow our lead.

We are digital citizens, members of a wider digital community, and it’s important to recognise that we are interlinked and responsible for not just our own but for other people’s digital safety and security.

The Bongles books have stories of cooperation and teamwork at their core, and these too are good skills to learn as we all rely on one another to have good cyber hygiene. A slipup from one person who is taken-in by a phishing scam and clicks on a bad link can compromise a whole organisation - we all need to improve our cyber resilience skills so that we can protect one another and live in a secure cyber world.

Click here to find out more about 'The Bongles and the Crafty Crows' 

About the author

Frances O'Neill is founder of Story Learning, creating stories with a purpose - to engage, inspire and inform

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The Bongles and The Crafty Crows

Discover more about these illustrated books that raise awareness of cyber security in the early years

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Annual Conference 2024

Join us on 29-30 May in Edinburgh for our annual conference. There are lots of ways to get involved

Click here for more

Our services

We offer we offer a range of services that provide support, advice and representation for children and families

Click here for more

Our membership offer

Be part of the largest national children's sector membership organisation in Scotland

Click here for more

Innovation in school meals in focus, as International School Meals Day 2024 launches

International School Meals Day (ISMD) has launched for 2024. This year's theme is ‘Innovation in school meals: new routes to sustainable nutrition’. 

ISMD aims to encourage children and young people around the world (with support from their teachers and families) to connect and talk to each other about the food they eat and the role that it plays in their lives. 

The date of ISMD 2024 is Thursday 14 March. 

This year’s theme encourages pupils, and school food providers, to think about nutrition in new, exciting and sustainable ways. 

Schools and communities are invited to share their activity via written pieces, drawings or photographs, audio or video, and good practice will be showcased on the ISMD website. 

A resource pack for schools has been launched, with classroom resources to support participation. 

In preparation for the day, school staff can explore nutrition in a variety of ways, introducing ISMD into curricular areas including science, home economics, geography and art. The aim is to demonstrate the breadth of innovation across Scotland and beyond and share ways of ensuring that school meals have a sustainable future. 

International School Meals Day is managed by Children in Scotland and supported by the Scottish Government. 

Head of Engagement and Learning at Children in Scotland, Simon Massey, said: 'So much has changed over recent years with both challenges and exciting developments happening across the world so, as we move into our 12th year celebrating International School Meals Day, I’m really looking forward to what people will share when thinking about our theme of innovation and nutrition. 

I look forward to seeing all sorts of new, clever, inspiring or re-imagined things come through.” 


Click here to find out more and download the 2024 resource pack:


International School Meals Day

Find out more about this global day with the aim of raising awareness of good nutrition for all children

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ISMD 2024 resource pack

Download this pack of graphics and classroom resources to help celebrate International School Meals Day

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Children and young people's engagement

Find out more about the work of Children in Scotland's participation and engagement team

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Our services

We offer we offer a range of services that provide support, advice and representation for children and families

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