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A young person with dark hair stands in front of a group of fashion mannequins. Wearing a black jumper, they hold a brightly coloured tote bag, which features swirls of blue, purple and red
Image: Martin Shields

A young Scot designs charity tote with John Lewis to “represent the brilliance of care experienced people”

Posted 19.01.24 by Alice Hinds

A care experienced student from Glasgow has designed a new charity tote bag in partnership with retailer John Lewis, helping to raise vital funds while also inspiring young people in the care system to discover their talent.

Selected by Who Cares? Scotland (click here for more) as an individual with bags of potential, 18-year-old Michael Archibald was given the opportunity to work with the in-house design team at Saatchi & Saatchi as part of the retailer’s Building Happier Futures programme, which recruits people with care experience to work in its department stores.

The first item in a new range of products the retailer says will create more opportunities for designers with care experience, profits from sales of Michael’s bold and stylish bag – available for just £12 – will go to Action for Children, Home-Start UK, and Who Cares? Scotland.

Discussing the inspiration behind the bag, Michael said: “The stars on the bag represent the brilliance of care experienced people, and the surrounding clouds depict the love, care and respect these individuals need.

“Creative industries are such a competitive field and being given the chance to create a product that is actually my own design – and see it physically in store – is an amazing experience. It’s made me feel like I’m able to go places.”

Queralt Ferrer, John Lewis' Director of Design for Fashion, added: “We set out to design a tote bag, but beyond that, our brief to Michael was very open. We could see he has a keen eye for aesthetics, and the ability to create authentic and captivating designs.”

In 2023, the Building Happier Futures (click here for more) programme generated £1.1million for care experience charities, including supporting Who Cares? Scotland to hold events for 880 people.

Two children in outdoor coats each holding a stick and playing in leaves

Schools in Scotland encouraged to join LEAF programme

Posted 24.08.23 by Sophie Ward

Environmental education programme expands after successful pilot

Environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful has announced the expansion of its Learning about Forests (LEAF) programme (click here for more) after more than 50 establishments participated in the pilot programme.

LEAF, a programme from the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) (click here for more), advocates outdoor learning and hands-on experiences, resulting in pupils gaining a deeper and more involved understanding of the natural world.

The key aims of the LEAF programme are to reconnect children and young people of all ages with natural environments while promoting and expanding outdoor education and improving their knowledge of forest-based ecosystems.

LEAF is an extension of Keep Scotland Beautiful’s Climate Action Schools, a framework of education initiatives to support Scotland’s educators, young people, and children to progress Learning for Sustainability and climate change education.

The Scottish Government’s recently published Learning for Sustainability Action Plan 2023-2030 (click here for more) stated that learners “asked for more opportunities to learn outdoors and be in nature and to be empowered to make actionable changes in their educational settings to fully embrace the ethos of LfS.”

The LEAF pilot programme, which ended earlier this year, was a fantastic success with 53 schools and nurseries across 21 local authorities taking part, undertaking a variety of nature-based activities, including identifying trees and wildlife that depend on their local nature, working with local councils to make schools better for wildlife, and planting trees, flowers, bulbs, fruit and vegetables.

LEAF increases opportunities for pupils to learn outdoors, while allowing students to take the lead in improving their school grounds and local community for the benefit of nature. The programme can be adapted to fit with learners in nurseries, primary and secondary schools and to pupils with additional support needs.

Nicola Davidson, Education and Learning Officer at Keep Scotland Beautiful, said: “LEAF is a fantastic opportunity for schools and nurseries to get involved in a project that supports mental and physical health of pupils and teachers, as well as giving pupils the opportunity to expand their learning in an outdoor environment.

“Outdoor learning and nature connection are not an extra to be fitted in, they are key components of education that are being demanded by pupils, as seen in the recently published Learning for Sustainability Action Plan.

“Our LEAF pilot was full of enthusiastic participants, from those delivering the programme to the young people learning from it, and we’re excited to now be able to offer this to even more schools across Scotland.”

Annette Valentine, teacher at Midlothian’s St Andrew’s RC Primary School, said: “It was lovely to have a reason to be outside. As our outside time was contributing to our LEAF award we made a point of going out and not putting it off until next week. Our playground has been transformed, we have an area outside each classroom where pupils can garden and observe wildlife. We have also cleared an area of woodland on our grounds to become an outside classroom. The buzz about the gardens and wildlife was something we did not have before and is there in abundance now.”

Numbers for second LEAF programme are limited and schools are encouraged to enroll early to avoid disappointment. Registration forms must be completed before the beginning of October.

For more information about the LEAF programme, click here to visit the dedicated webpage on the Keep Scotland Beautiful website:

A group of young children play outside on grass with a multi-coloured parachute

Charities set to benefit from £550,000 in outdoor play funding

Posted 21.07.23 by Alice Hinds

Thousands of Scottish children living in deprived areas will soon have access to more community outdoor play spaces, as the Scottish Government announces more than half a million pounds in funding for local charities.

Organisations providing outdoor play initiatives will receive a share of £550,000 to expand their projects throughout the year and during school holidays, benefitting an estimated 14,000 children across the country.

Children’s Minister Natalie Don announced The Outdoor Community Play Fund during a visit to Renfrew YMCA (click here for more), one of the 32 charities that will benefit from the investment.

The Minister said: “Outdoor play has an incredibly positive impact on our children’s mental health, wellbeing and confidence. It can teach them how to solve problems, assess risks, boost their physical activity and provide opportunities to meet and interact with others.

“However, options for children to play safely outdoors can be limited, especially for children in deprived areas. At a time when families are struggling with the cost of living crisis, it is even more essential that we provide this vital support to ensure there are outdoor play options available, free of charge, for families across Scotland.”

Other charities set to receive funding include Glasgow’s Concrete Garden (click here for more), North Edinburgh Arts (click here for more), and Under The Trees (click here for more) in Falkirk.

Inspiring Scotland Director of Funds Julia Abel added: “All children have the right to play – not only is it vital for their mental health and wellbeing, but is also supports children to learn social and emotional skills while boosting their physical activity.

“The beauty of outdoor community play is that it’s child-led, enabling children to use their creativity and imagination to develop their own ways to have fun, overcome barriers, while teaching life-enhancing skills that will make positive effects all the way into adulthood.”

Impact report reveals the benefits of peer research in participation projects

Children in Scotland has published an impact report on evaluation from the Participation through the Pandemic project.

The report reveals the benefits of taking a peer research approach, where a group of people with lived experience of an issue come together to research it.

Funded by the Young Start programme (click here for more), the Participation through the Pandemic project explored how coronavirus changed the ways in which children and young people got involved in projects or accessed services.

Within it, a group of four young researchers aged 14-18 years worked together to examine how engaging online rather than face-to-face  changed the way children and young people share their views.

By taking a peer research approach, the young people were able to learn by doing, learn from each other and gain skills and confidence in their own abilities.

On the process, one of the participants said:

“The analysis of the projects, especially the tasks following the discussions with the projects, gave me an insight into the depth of analysis and evaluation needed for research. This has allowed me to improve my research skills as I know what is required to gather excellent research.”

To help bring the report and its findings to life, the group worked with artist Victoria Geary to produce a short animation that explores what peer research is and the benefits it can bring to research and evaluation projects led by young people.

Children in Scotland is hosting a free webinar event on Thursday 23 February (10am-12pm) to share learning from the project, this report and the experience of taking a peer research approach.
Click here to find out more and register to attend

On the impact report, Chris Ross, Senior Policy, Projects and Participation Officer said:

“'Our evaluation of the Participation through the Pandemic project has shown the value of peer research as an approach. It gives children and young people a chance to take the lead and drive change. We found that building relationships and learning together were key in supporting our peer researchers, so was having fun!

Our upcoming webinar on the findings of the report will be a great opportunity to share good practice and learn new approaches. Please get signed up if you want to find out more."

Click here to read the impact report

Click here to find out more about the Participation through the Pandemic project

The Peer Research Impact Report

Explore the findings from our evaluation of the peer research approach

Click here to read the report

Participation through the Pandemic

Read the final report from this project published in June 2022

Click to find out more

Participation with young people

Find out more about our how we embed children and young people’s inclusion across all our work

Click here for more
Photo. A number of different cancer awareness ribbons are laid out on a white background, including a red ribbon, blue ribbon, orange ribbon and pink ribbon.

News: New research seeks to better understand the experiences of young cancer patients

Posted 22 January, 2023 by Jennifer Drummond

The groundbreaking work will look to build a new evidence base of the needs of young cancer patients and identify gaps in how the system currently supports them.

The work is being conducted by leading cancer charities Young Lives vs Cancer, the Children’s Cancer and Leukemia Group, the Ellen McArthur Cancer Trust and Teenage Cancer Trust across the whole of the UK.

Dartington Service Design Lab, a charity which aims to improve children’s outcomes through research, systems thinking and co-design approaches, has been commissioned as the research partner. In partnership with Edge Hill University, Dartington will undertake experience-led research, co-designed by young people, parents of children with cancer and key stakeholders.

The project will bring together the voices of children, young people and families, as well as new evidence and systems thinking that will help inform developments and ultimately improve the outcomes for the young people the charities work with.

Scottish cancer rates

Each year in Scotland, around 330 children and young people under 25 are diagnosed with cancer, according to the latest statistics from Public Health Scotland - almost one person every day.

Speaking specifically about the involvement of Scottish young people and their families, Nathan Sheach, Strategic Lead for Service Design at Dartington Service Design Lab said:

“This research seeks to align the service provision of care, advice and support to the true needs of the young Scottish people (and others across the UK) with experience of cancer and their supporting peers, guardians or families' experiences.

“Scotland is unique in its positioning in terms of what’s available to young people with cancer. Large third sector organisations, National Health Service trusts and local peer-to-peer and community support groups are heavily spread out across the country. Each person's experience, needs, support around their cancer diagnosis will be different among what is quite a complex system of support services available.“

Young people’s views will be crucial

The project is seeking participants who are 14-25 years old, with experience of cancer in the last five years, to participate in workshops between now and May to help better understand the needs of young people in Scotland and strengthen the evidence about the support available.

Parents and guardians who have supported a young person with cancer are also invited to participate to share their experiences and insight into strategies for this vital area of work.

Research will be taking place during the first half of 2023, with findings expected in the autumn.

Click here to read more about the project

Photo. A young girl looks off camera. She has brown hair blowing in the wind and has a sad / thoughtful expression. She appears to be outside.

News: New calls to action for Anti-Bullying Week 2022

Posted 15 November, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

respectme, Scotland’s national anti-bullying charity, has called for action to address bullying during this year’s Anti-Bullying week, announcing a new campaign hub and urging those working with children and young people to make a real commitment to change.

The Listen Up! (Respect our Rights) Campaign was created with input from respectme’s Youth Action Group, requesting all reports of bullying are taken seriously and for children’s rights to be at the heart of all effective responses to bullying.

During the development of the campaign, the young ambassadors talked at length about times they have felt unheard and shared experiences of not being taken seriously when reporting bullying to a professional or trusted adult.

Listen Up! (Respect our Rights) aims to open a national conversation to inspire adults to listen and take action to stop bullying in its tracks.

As part of the campaign, children and young people in schools, youth settings and at home will be asked to engage with the campaign by taking part in class-based lessons through drama and dance, and through new youth-led activities exploring children’s rights in the context of bullying and kindness.

Five Step Action Plan

During Anti-bullying week, and beyond, educations, schools, youth and sports clubs are invited to pledge to the charity’s Five Step Action Plan:

  • Registering for respectme’s Ant-Bullying Learning Academy eLearning modules
  • Refresh, review and update current anti-bullying policy
  • Create a pupil form or anti-bullying committee to inform anti-bullying policy and practice
  • Create simple, safe pathways for reporting bullying that respect children’s rights
  • Involve children and young people with Listen Up! Campaign activities and messages for anti bullying week 2022.

Anti-Bullying Week 2022 runs from Monday 14 November-Friday 18 November.

Click here to visit the Listen Up! (Respecting our Rights) campaign hub

Click here to find out more about Anti-Bullying Week 2022, and the wider work of respectme

Two people with their backs to the camera. One has short dark hair, the other is leaning against them and has long orange hair.

News: Bereavement should be on the school curriculum, report suggests

Posted 21 September, 2022 by Nina Joynson

The National Childhood Bereavement Project has submitted its final report to the Scottish Government, with recommendations to improve support for bereaved children and young people.

The Growing Up Grieving report has found that the sector is failing to meet the practical needs of bereaved children due to a lack of service coordination and support for young people.

A new approach to grief in schools 

The report recommends that schools need a new four-point approach to grief, spanning policy, staff training and pupil education.

This would involve adding death and bereavement to Curriculum for Excellence (where there is currently no formal mention), with acknowledgement of different cultural and religious practices and the requirements of pupils with additional support needs.

The research also found large disparities exist between different schools' procedures around death and grief, advising that a universal bereavement policy is needed to make support equal across Scottish schools.

The third and fourth points of the proposed approach suggest providing educators with greater support, after evidence showed that teachers lack confidence in managing pupils experiencing grief.

The report recommends that all school staff undertake mandatory bereavement training, while a nationally accessible resource bank of guidance and educational materials should be available for teachers.

The project

Delivered by Includem, the National Childhood Bereavement Project was commissioned by the Scottish Government to take a strategic overview of childhood bereavement services and experiences across Scotland.

It engaged 100 people with experiences of childhood bereavement and more than 250 people who work supportively with bereaved children and young people.

Seven recommendations

Along with a new approach to grief in schools, the report makes six recommendations to the Scottish Government:

  • Embed commitments for improved bereavement support into wider national priorities
  • Promote greater awareness of bereavement amongst children and young people to normalise the grief process
  • Establish a national secretariat for childhood bereavement to improve sector coordination
  • Develop accessible advice for children and young people on what to do when someone dies
  • Create compassionate, grief-aware places of work and learning
  • Establish a bereavement grant for those left in precarious financial positions after the death of a primary income earner.

Click here to read the Growing Up Grieving report

Greyscale headshot of a woman with shoulder-length blonde straight hair. She is smiling and wearing a patterned high-neck top

Q&A with Sarah Dyer: Talking the talk and walking the walk

Posted 17 August, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

Sarah Dyer, an Early Years Officer from Fife, will be taking The Big Stroll as part of the Kiltwalk 2022 in aid of Children in Scotland. Here, she tells us how supporting children and young people during the pandemic gave her the motivation to fundraise for us.

What inspired you to sign up for the Kiltwalk 2022? 

I was looking to be more active and start walking more.  Someone at work suggested that I take part in a charity walk to give me some  motivation. I had seen adverts on TV for the Kiltwalk and always thought it looked really fun. This year's Kiltwalk is on my 41st birthday so I took that as a sign and registered.

How are you preparing? Do you have a special training regime? 

I have been going for walks with friends who are also taking part in the Kiltwalk, covering just over 5 miles.  I try to walk about 2-3 miles a day but with only a few weeks to go until the big day I really need to up my game and increase those distances!!

Have you walked for charity before or completed any other charity events in the past? 

I've never walked this distance before but I think having friends to chat to and the atmosphere on the day will help.

I have previously taken part in charity events and have abseiled from the Wallace Monument and Tynecastle Football Stadium for the RNIB.

Why did you choose to walk for Children in Scotland? 

As an Early Years Officer and a mum, I understand the challenges that children and young people face.  During the pandemic, I became aware of Children in Scotland and your fantastic resources for people working with children, in particular your webinars and training courses to enable a better understanding of the challenges that children in our country face and how best to support them.

I chose to walk for Children in Scotland because, like me, you strive to improve children's lives, focusing on improving outcomes for children facing all sorts of barriers and helping them to reach their full potential.

Sarah Dyer will be walking The Big Stroll, a distance of 14.8 miles, as part of the Edinburgh Kiltwalk on Saturday 18 September.

Click here to sponsor Sarah, on behalf of Children in Scotland


Education Improvement: Data gathering must be accurate, considered and purposeful

Children in Scotland has responded to the Scottish Government’s latest consultation on the Education National Improvement Framework (NIF) applauding its overall aim but warning data gathered must be accurate and appropriate in order to lead to tangible improvements.

In our consultation response, we welcome the Education National Improvement Framework and its ambition to widen recognition of achievement, close the poverty-related attainment gap and place the needs and rights of every young person at the centre of education.

Our rights-based response is informed by engagement with children and young people across advisory groups and projects in the past two years and the real concerns we have heard from them about education.

Our recently completed project 'Young People and Their Data', in partnership with the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research (SCADR), supported an acknowledgement of the importance of appropriate, accurate and transparent data in order to achieve the ambition of the Education NIF in providing benchmarks and measurable goals for the future.

Our response outlines key recommendations, including:

  • a focus on improving the attainment of all children
  • more engagement with services including Enquire, My Rights My Say and the national Inclusion Ambassadors to identify educational inequalities and defining what action can be taken to make tangible improvements
  • end the use of non-contextualised data, which can lead to inaccurate conclusions, as particularly evident with regards to attendance and exclusion figures for children and young people with additional support needs
  • use a holistic assessment tool for children in the early years, when gaps begin to become apparent, such as the internationally recognised Early Development Instrument (EDI) which focuses on more than just literacy and numeracy.

Whilst welcoming the willingness of the Scottish Government to extend recognition of achievement beyond academic qualifications, we are aware of the inequalities of opportunity to achieve outwith school depending on geography, socio-economic group or other factors. Progress on a ‘hobby premium’, as recommended in our Manifesto for 2021-26 (click here to read), may go some way to begin to address this.

Finally, we highlight the requirement to ensure children, young people and their families are made fully aware of how their data is collected, stored and used.

Elaine Kerridge, Policy Manager - Projects and Participation, said:

“We applaud the overall intentions of the Education National Improvement Framework but do have some concerns over the accuracy of the data currently gathered.

“Ultimately, we appreciate data gathering is an important tool in service improvement. It provides a starter marker, creates a benchmark for comparisons and provides a tangible and measurable end goal. It is important, therefore, that we get this right.

“Children in Scotland has been involved in a number of projects to contribute to the growing body of evidence around education reform. We hope these, as well as ongoing reviews into education in Scotland will contribute to a national conversation and meaningful, demonstrable improvement in this area.”

The  National Improvement Framework and improvement plan was published in December 2021 and sets out the vision and priorities for Scottish education, as well as national improvement activity that is to be undertaken.

A consultation seeking views on improving the collection of data to assess progress towards closing the poverty-related attainment gap closed on 18 July.

Click here to read our response in full

Education Framework

Read our response to the Education NIF consultation

Click here to read

Join us in membership

Find out more about the benefits of membership

Click here to find out more

Manifesto 2021-26

Including calls on Tackling Inequality, Early Years and Learning

Click here to find out more

Our vision and values

Find out more about the vision and values that guide us

Click here to find out more

People, not numbers

Latest news: New report reveals young people's views on data

Click here to read
A black and white image of a man from the shoulders up. He has white hair and is wearing dark glasses.

Comment: More agency must be given to children with experience of parental separation

Posted 5 April 2022, by Jennifer Drummond

Ian Maxwell (pictured) highlights the findings of new research into the reflections of young people who experienced the break-up of their parents’ relationship during childhood, and why we need to listen to what they have to say.

The Voice of the Child began as a call to give agency to children whose life is affected by a range of adverse experiences, including separation or divorce of their parents. I know no-one who doubts the importance of hearing and acknowledging what children may be trying to communicate. But we have to be careful. Any concise phrase intended to capture an important insight, over time, risks becoming just a slogan – an oversimplification that risks closing down the very debate it opened up.

Last year, Jamie Wark, a psychology undergraduate at the University of Glasgow did work with us, funded by the Robertson Trust, to obtain the views of young people whose parents had separated during their childhood.

When parents separate and can’t agree on arrangements to share the responsibilities, as well as the rights, of parenthood their children may feel their choices are limited. The certainties they have known disintegrate around them. Jamie conducted a survey amongst fellow students and other young people about their experience of family separation and their subsequent involvement with their parents when they were growing up. This was followed with interviews and focus groups.

His findings have now been published in our report “Sharing My Parents” (click to read).

The project breaks new ground in Scotland by asking young people directly about the effect of parental separation on their own life. It gives agency to a perspective missing from the previous debates in Scotland – young people whose experience is recent but who no longer feel constrained in what they can say.

The young people whose parents had separated reported that they had spent most of their time with their mothers (83%). Most indicated that they would have liked to have spent more time with their fathers.

"I would have liked to have visited my dad more but I was often a bit worried that it would upset my mum as my dad left my mum for someone else" revealed the loyalty conflict faced by one respondent.

A focus group participant actively looked for support during her parents' break-up. She felt unable to speak to her parents because of their emotional involvement in the situation but was left disappointed by her experience seeking support externally. She commented: "I went to a school counsellor, and I hated it and never went back”.

Another interviewee said that she couldn’t talk to even her sister about the separation until they were both adults and had left the family home. Only then did they realise that they had both been experiencing the same struggles.

Given that at least 30% of Scottish children will experience family separation, a lack of adult insight into its impact is of great concern.

Research shows that frequent, intense and poorly resolved parental conflict is harmful to children with potential life-long consequences.

It will help legislators, professionals and, most importantly, separated parents themselves, if they take time to listen to what these young people say, putting aside their own emotional needs or political priorities.

We have long argued that in our adversorial system, parents are pushed into decisions about arrangements for sharing (or not sharing) meaningful time with their children at the point of break-up when they are least able to apply the perspective that puts their children’s long-term interests first. The same applies to children who are asked for their views in the midst of conflict.

There are some things happening already to support parents. Local services within Relationships Scotland run very useful Parenting Apart training sessions (click to view), helping parents to appreciate how they and their children can move forward positively.

In addition, Shared Parenting Scotland has brought New Ways for Families online training and coaching to Scotland (click to view).  Developed in the USA by the High Conflict Institute, we have adapted this training programme for parents to also support children and young people.

Recent Scottish legislation such as the Children (Scotland) Act 2020 and the move to incorporate the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child into Scots law putting increasing emphasis on the need to take children’s views into account when important decisions are made about their lives, including family separation.

Listening to the voice of the child is an important step forward in Scottish policy and practice but, as Jamie’s ground-breaking work shows, there are often many nuances that must be acknowledged, especially when it comes to family life. We must really listen to the voice of children and be careful not to oversimplify their experiences, which may be just as damaging as the previous deafness to it.

Ian Maxwell, National Manager, Shared Parenting Scotland

Click here to find out more about the Sharing my Parents research, by Jamie Wark for Shared Parenting Scotland