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New resources launched for teachers, parents and carers to help support attendance as schools return

Posted 17.08.23 by Alice Hinds

Teachers, families, parents and carers can now access a range of free resources to support children and young people to “be inspired, be involved and be in school” as they return to lessons after the summer holidays.

Created by the Forth Valley & West Lothian Regional Improvement Collaborative (RIC), as part of a new back to school campaign, the Interactive Attendance Guide provides research, information and advice on truancy, bullying, avoidance and anxiety, as well as many more common issues relating to school attendance, which experts say has been in decline since the pandemic.

With more than 100,000 Scottish schoolchildren missing at least one day of lessons every fortnight, according to recent figures from the Commission on School Reform (click here for more), it is hoped the new guide will remove barriers and help to improve both attendance and attainment.

The organisation (click here for more), which aims to improve opportunities and outcomes for children living in the Clackmannanshire, Falkirk, Stirling and West Lothian council areas, say the resources aren’t just about books and tests, but ensuring young Scots develop social skills, learn routines and build friendships for life, too.

As part of their mission to improve attendance, the organisation also recently held a “soundbites” competition, which saw eight school children record voiceover adverts at the Forth One radio studios, while a further poster contest for pupils will be launched soon.

For more information and to access the resources, click here to visit the Interactive Attendance Guide landing page:

A photo of young people sitting in chairs facing away from the camera and towards a speaker at a whiteboard.

News: Number of school leavers in positive destinations reaches record high

Posted on 1 March, 2023 by Nina Joynson

Latest figures published by Scottish Government show a record number of 2022 school leavers are in work, training or further education, with the proportion in unemployment at its lowest.

Scotland's Chief Statistician has released new statistics on the destinations of 2021-22 school leavers from publicly funded schools.

The statistics on Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations show that 95.7% of young people who finished school in the last academic year have progressed in their studies or careers within three months of the academic year end.

Positive destinations include Higher and Further Education, employment, training, personal skills development and voluntary work.

The figure is up from 95.5% in the 2020-2021 school year.

School leavers in employment increased to 25.1%, from 22.6%. Those in Higher Education decreased to 41.2%, from 45.1%. This is in line with figures prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The new statistics also show that unemployment amongst school leavers is at its lowest since 2009-10 with 3.9% unemployed three months after leaving school, down from 4.2% in 2020-21.

The gap between school leavers in positive destinations from the most and least deprived areas has also narrowed to 4.4 percentage points – a gap that has reduced by two-thirds since 2009-10.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, said:

“This highlights the achievements of Scotland’s learners – making the transition from school can be a daunting time, so it’s great to see a record number of young people progressing in their studies or careers after leaving school.

“Closing the deprivation gap remains a top priority for us and these statistics show we are continuing to make progress, with the gap between school leavers from the most and least deprived areas in work, training or further study down to a record low.”

A close-up of Holyrood's exterior windows, with grey bricks and wooden decoration and protruding stone features

News: Sturgeon centres children and families in resignation speech

Posted 15 February, 2023 by Nina Joynson

Nicola Sturgeon shared government's past and future focus on children, young people and families in speech as she resigns as Scotland's leader.

After more than eight years as First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon resigned this morning in a press conference at Bute House.

The SNP party leader announced her resignation before taking questions from journalists in attendance. 

Children, young people and families were notably central to her speech, both in highlighting the progress made during her tenure and as priorities moving forward.

Stating that she did not plan to leave politics, the First Minister said that “there are many issues I care deeply about and hope to champion in future”, going on to describe two: The Promise, and Scottish independence. 

Sturgeon said:

“One of these is The Promise – the national mission, so close to my heart, to improve the life chances of care experienced young people and ensure that they grow up nurtured and loved.

“My commitment to these young people will be lifelong.”

She also acknowledged changes that the Scottish Government has made since she became First Minister in 2014. Most of the achievements she outlined related to policies for children, young people and families, including:

  • Greater access to university for young people from deprived backgrounds
  • Investments in early learning and childcare
  • Introduction of Scotland's Baby Box
  • Launch of the Scottish Child Payment.

"As the Institute for Fiscal Studies confirmed last week, the poorest families with children in Scotland are now £2000 better off as a result of our policies.”

Journalists in attendance also centred many of their questions on policies linked to young people.

One asked the First Minister whether she had regrets over areas that had may be considered unsuccessful, including the education attainment gap.

Sturgeon responded by noting investment expansion for early years childcare and education and the attainment gap:

“If you're a young person from a deprived background or a background like the one I come from you’ve got a better chance than you’ve ever had before of going to university.”

In the final question, one journalist asked what issues the First Minister would campaign for upon returning to the backbench. Sturgeon replied with two priorities, one being the rights of care experienced young people: 

“I certainly will continue to champion that cause. It’s one that got under my skin and into my heart in a way that few other issues did over my time as First Minister. Beyond that, we’ll see.”

greyscale image of a smiling person with short dark hair and a moustache and beard. They wear a shirt.

Comment: We know what’s wrong, so what will we do?

Posted 25 January, 2023 by Jennifer Drummond

We need a radical shift and long-term prevention measures to genuinely improve outcomes for Scotland’s most deprived communities, writes David Finch (pictured)

Our Health Foundation report ‘Leave no one behind: The state of health and health inequalities in Scotland (click here to access)’ was published earlier in January. It is the summation of a multi-stranded review undertaken over the past 12 months, focusing on how Scotland has fared on health and health inequalities in the two decades since devolution.

The most glaring predicament revealed by the review is that the fortunes of those living in our most deprived communities are peeling away from the rest.

Compiled from research commissioned from the University of Glasgow, the Fraser of Allander Institute, Nesta in Scotland, and the Diffley Partnership, with the help of our expert advisory group, it has revealed some particularly worrying trends.

Poor childhood health, rising infant mortality rates and a persistent attainment gap

Early childhood development and the school years play a crucial role in determining future health. Poor outcomes in childhood can continue to have significant implications in life. For example, school readiness affects educational attainment, eventual access to job opportunities, lifetime income and ultimately health. Yet there are a number of concerning trends that risk the perpetuation of health inequalities for children now and later in their lives.

Infant mortality is a good indicator of societal health. The rate at which children die before their first birthday is rising for people living in the most deprived fifth of areas but is static or falling among the rest.

Since 2000 infant mortality has declined overall. However, from 2014 infant mortality rose in the most deprived areas and fell in the least deprived 60% of areas. Between 2016-18 infant mortality rates in the most deprived areas were 2.6 times the rate in the least deprived areas.

In the past decade, inequalities have also widened for infant immunisation uptake, low birth weight and childhood obesity. The overall proportion of children at risk of obesity has remained stable over the past 20 years in Scotland, with around 1 in 10 children at risk of obesity at the start of school. But the risk of childhood obesity has gradually fallen in the least deprived areas and gradually risen in the most deprived areas. By 2018-19 children living in the most deprived fifth of areas were twice as likely to be at risk of obesity, than those in the least deprived.

Further evidence of the rise in health inequalities is seen in Early Years. The proportion of 27 to 30-month-old children of development concern from the most deprived areas in 2019-20, only matched outcomes of the children from the next most deprived fifth of areas recorded in 2013-14.

The significant poverty-related attainment gap for primary school pupils in Scotland has not closed over the past two decades. The pandemic has reversed any progress in closing a similar attainment gap for secondary age children.

Life expectancy already varies greatly across Scotland. In the most deprived areas, men are dying more than 13 years earlier than their peers in the least deprived areas – and women almost a decade earlier.

Action is needed now to improve outcomes through childhood to support future health and reduce such inequalities.

Building blocks for a healthy community

A healthy community derives from a range of factors: stable jobs, good pay, quality housing and education. Poor health is almost inevitable when some or all of these factors are absent.

Scotland's wide and sustained health inequalities are being driven by the accumulation of severe multiple disadvantages, a lack of improvement in living standards and public service fragility due to the ongoing impact of austerity.

So, we know what is wrong now, in more detail than ever. The question is, what can we do about it? Because, if we fail to change course, Scotland’s most deprived communities are likely to continue suffering from poor quality of life and to die younger.

A radical shift in approach is needed. The Scottish Government, local authorities, businesses and the third sector must come together and collaborate closely with communities. Ultimately, we must shift focus from short-term measures to longer term preventative interventions. This is a wiser use of the funding available which will create a healthier nation.

Our review has shown that the public will support a longer-term approach, and that existing approaches can be adapted to have greater impact. This includes Local Child Poverty Action reports which can be used more effectively to build collaboration across sectors and drive action on underlying causes of poverty which in turn will support better health.

This is no longer about plans and strategies. It is about political will, and decisive action.

David Finch is Assistant Director of the Health Foundation’s Healthy Lives team

Children in Scotland conducted participative research with children and young people about health inequalities from 2019-2020. Click here to find out more about our health inequalities peer research project. 

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Classroom of schoolchildren

News: Plans to overhaul Scottish Attainment Challenge funding revealed

Posted 24 Nov, 2021 by Nina Joynson

The Scottish Government has announced plans to overhaul the next phase of the £1bn Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC).

In an update to Holyrood on Wednesday, Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville outlined new plans to expand SAC funding to all 32 local authorities in 2022-23 to tackle the attainment gap.

Previously, nine 'challenge authorities' - those facing the worst levels of poverty - were funded, along with 73 additional schools with the highest levels of deprivation.

The extension of educational investment will be distributed equitably across local authorities based on Children in Low Income Families data.

Additional revisions to Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) means headteachers will receive up to £130 million next year to support disadvantaged pupils in whatever way they see best. Funding will be determined by the number of pupils registered for free school meals.

The Scottish Attainment Challenge was launched in 2015 to combat the gap in educational outcomes between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils. With targeted activity in literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing across Scotland, £700 million has been invested to date.

However, its lack of impact has been criticised. A report from Audit Scotland, published in March, warned the attainment gap remains wide, with inconsistent growth and large variations in performance. The report showed that, despite investment measures, less than half of councils saw improved performance across all four key indicators between 2013-14 and 2018-19.

Speaking to the Scottish Parliament, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Shirley-Anne Somerville, said:

“We are determined to increase the pace of this crucial work and to ensure children and young people across different parts of Scotland reach their full potential. Schools can’t do this alone and we have fully aligned our work on closing the attainment gap with wider work to tackle child poverty.”

The new plans have received a mixed response across Parliament.

Scottish Conservatives are crictical of the recalculated funds with Shadow Education Secretary, Oliver Mundell, accusing the government of "ignoring the real challenges facing our schools". However, Scottish Greens Spokesperson Ross Greer commended the move, claiming the redistribution of money is more reflective of the scope and scale of poverty across the country.

Full allocations for each local authority are expected to be published in the Spring.

Photo of hands holding a pencil and filling out a paper exam on a light wood table

News: Education Recovery plan misses the mark say teaching unions

Posted 6 October, 2021 by Jennifer Drummond

The Scottish Government’s plans to support the recovery of the education sector have been met with scepticism from teaching bosses

A new Scottish Government Education Recovery strategy outlines how almost £500 million has been used to support learners and staff across the country, and shares plans of how the Scottish Government will continue to provide support to the sector.

Amongst some of the key commitments are:

  • Further support for learners sitting exams in 2022
  • Access to in-school mental health and wellbeing support, including counselling
  • Recruitment of 3,500 additional teachers and 500 support staff over this parliamentary term
  • Expanded funded early learning and childcare for children aged one and two, starting with low-inocme households
  • Committing £1 billion to tackle the poverty related attainment gap

Commenting on the strategy, Shirley-Anne Somerville, Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills said:

“Schools are still dealing with the pandemic and we will continue to support them through these challenging times. However, as a Government we must also be focused on recovery. Supporting children and young people remains our top priority, and almost £500 million of additional funding has already been committed during 2020/21  and 2021/22 as part of education recovery. Of this, £240 million is to recruit staff to ensure resilience and to provide additional support for learners and teacher.

“Pupils sitting exams in Spring 2022 will be offered a package of support which will include online revision classes and targeted help for those who need it most. At the heart of all this is our children and young people, who we will ensure have the opportunities they need to fulfil their potential in school and beyond.”

However, the plans have been met with criticism from union bosses who have expressed disappointment at its lack of vision and ambition, viewing it as an opportunity missed.

Larry Flanagan, General Secretary of EIS, Scotland’s largest teaching union, said:

“Clearly, there are significant elements within the plan to be welcomed – not least the commitment to increasing teaching numbers.

“Overall, however, the plan largely restates existing workstreams and fails to promote a single big initiative such as a reduction in class sizes, which would catalyse an education recovery programme and bring immediate benefits to Scotland’s children and young people."

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of NASUWT-The Teachers Union also shared this view, commenting:

“While there are some potentially helpful additional programmes and ideas, these seem at best to be bolt-ons to a pre-pandemic policy framework.

“Given the central role of teachers to securing education recovery the strategy is disappointingly light on tangible actions to retain teachers, tackle the crisis in teacher morale, tackle excessive workload and deliver real improvements to teachers’ pay, without  which the pledge to recruit additional teachers will not be realised.

“Recovery needs to be understood as a long-term process given the pandemic’s far-reaching effects, but this strategy fails to set out a holistic post-pandemic vision which would support children in all aspects of their lives, not just within formal education.”

Click here to read Education Recovery: Key action and next steps

Exams review decision ‘reflects commitment to equalities and values young people’s views’

7 October 2020

Children in Scotland has responded to this afternoon’s announcement by the Scottish Government that in 2021 National 5 exams will be replaced by a system where grades are awarded based on coursework and teacher judgement.

Higher and Advanced Higher exams will go ahead, Cabinet Secretary for Education John Swinney told the Scottish Parliament.

We welcome publication of the report by Professor Mark Priestley and in particular its recommendations for:

  • A commitment to embedding equalities in all aspects of the development of qualifications systems
  • The development of more systematic processes for working with and engaging young people, as stakeholders and rights holders in education
  • The development of a clear communications strategy, co-constructed with stakeholders, to ensure that the extraordinary arrangements for 2021 are as fully as possible understood by all parties; and
  • A review of qualification appeals systems, including consideration of the rights and roles of young people, in the context of the incorporation of the UNCRC into Scottish law.

Children in Scotland CEO Jackie Brock said:

“The Priestley review valued the views and engagement of young people and this is demonstrated in the central role they are being given in the recommendations.

“We are pleased that the Scottish Government has accepted these and we look forward to working with young people and others to ensure they create a credible and exemplary approach to assessing the hard work and high standards achieved by young people across Scotland.”

Review of National Qualifications Experience 2020

Recommendations by Professor Mark Priestley have been published

Click to read more

Programme for government: our view

We welcomed pledges on youth jobs and said more ambition was needed on fighting poverty

Click to read more

UNCRC incorporation 'to the max' welcome

Find out why we back full incorporation and read our consultation response

Click to read more