skip to main content
A person with long blonde hair stands in front of dressmaking mannequins. In front of her on a table, a sign reads National Opportunity Day
Fashion designer Siobhan McKenzie

Glasgow Kelvin College launches new awareness day to celebrate further education opportunities

Posted 03.08.23 by Alice Hinds

With results day approaching, Glasgow Kelvin College has registered an official awareness day to help school leavers discover what’s possible during the clearing process.

Taking place on Wednesday, 9 August, the inaugural National Opportunity Day will see the college open its doors to people of all ages and stages, allowing potential students to explore what courses and qualifications could be open to them after receiving their exam results.

Students across Scotland will receive exam and assessment grades on Tuesday, 8 August, with the clearing process (click here for more) beginning the same day – and Gary Sharp, Student Support Services Manager at Glasgow Kelvin College, says school leavers and career changers alike should keep an open mind and look at all the options available.

“Speaking to prospective students and making them aware of all the opportunities available to them is always the best part of my job, as very few people really understand what’s possible,” he explained. “Results day is clearly an important day for many, but it’s not the end of the road.

“Regardless of whether you’ve just received your exam results, or if you’re 10 years into your career, there are a wide variety of different trades, industries, and professions available.”

National Opportunity Day is backed by award-winning fashion designer Siobhan Mackenzie (click here for more), who studied fashion design and production at the college, and has since designed kilts for the likes of Justin Bieber and Team Scotland for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

A young woman holds up a glass beaker filled with red liquid. In her other hand, she holds a sign that reads National Opportunity Day.

Noma Dube, who studied Applied Science at Glasgow Kelvin College, helps to promote National Opportunity Day

“My skill set learnt in college has crucially prepared me for industry and has given me the knowledge needed to forge a career in my field,” said Mackenzie. “It was hard work but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. I’m very proud to have gone to Glasgow Kelvin College and I hope this will open people’s eyes to the possibilities available at the college.”

Glasgow Kelvin College will hold its annual Open Day as part of National Opportunity Day, with advice and guidance teams on hand to help guide visitors through the wide range of subjects available, including HND, HNC and degree qualifications, access courses and City & Guilds programmes.

Sharp added: “College creates the workforce of the future, embedding practical skills that will stand the test of time. Whatever your passions, skills or interests, there’s a place for you at Kelvin, and an opportunity waiting to be seized.

“We are passionate about supporting students to make ‘non traditional’ choices, such as the excellent career opportunities for women in STEM, and men entering childcare, caring and nursing professions.”

For more information, click here to visit the Glasgow Kelvin College’s website:

A woman with dark hair and glasses and a teenage boy look at a laptop screen
Photo credit: Julie Howden/ARC

New app launched to help school leavers with additional support needs transition into adulthood

Posted 22.06.23 by Alice Hinds

A new app has been launched to help young people with additional support needs navigate the transition into adulthood.

Developed by health and social care charity ARC Scotland (click here for more), with funding from the Scottish Government, the Compass digital platform aims to be a “one-stop shop” for young people as they leave school, providing support and advice for students, as well as parents and carers.

For many young people, leaving school means a straightforward move to further education or the workplace but for those with disabilities and additional support needs, planning for the future is more complex, and many people require accessible, appropriate information and tailored support packages.

ARC Scotland says transition planning is a “huge part” of enabling the young people it works with to get the right support when they need it – and free access to Compass will play a key role in making the steps before and after leaving school more manageable for Scots aged 14 to 25.

Mum-of-three Alyson Smart (pictured below), from central Scotland, has already been making use of Compass, and says the app has been particularly useful as her son moves into sixth year of high school.

“We asked to get involved in the trial of Compass and have already found it invaluable,” she explained. “Trying to find the right information for children like mine as they move towards adulthood is extremely challenging.

"In an ideal world we would know who to speak to and where to go but life with two young people who have additional support needs is busy and with Compass, all the information is in the one place.

A woman with dark hair and glasses sits on the sofa with her teenage son as they look at a tablet computer

Photo credit: Julie Howden/ARC Scotland

"I’ve found myself sitting at midnight being guided towards the right places on Compass. It’s really easy to use. You complete one task and move to the next. My son, who has autism and a moderate learning disability, has used it too and he finds it very straightforward. It’s worded nicely also and there is no negative language.”

As well as supplying essential information for users, the platform also gathers feedback and statistics to enable local authorities to improve practice, and forms part of ARC Scotland’s work to make transitions smoother, identify gaps in provision, and provide better support to empower young people who require additional assistance to live fulfilled and independent lives.

James Fletcher, director of ARC Scotland, said: “Young people with additional support needs and their carers face all sorts of challenges as they move towards adulthood.

“Finding the right information at the right time is critical and this is something which we, as an organisation which advocates for people with disabilities, have been working hard to address in the past few years.

“Compass was trialled with young people, as well as their parents and carers. They have helped to create the finished product to make sure it covers the things most important to them.

“Those involved have also used Compass to give feedback to their local authority about their own experiences of transitions and how they can be improved. We believe this is a significant and pioneering resource which will pave the way for other interactive platforms.”

For more information and to access Compass, click here to visit the website:

School children raise their hands in the classroom with teacher in the background

Families paying hundreds per year on essential education, new research finds

Posted 11.05.23 by Alice Hinds

Parents and caregivers are spending hundreds of pounds every year to send their children to state primary and secondary school, according to new research from the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).

Families in the UK need to find at least £39.01 per week, per state secondary school child, and £18.69 per primary-age child, totalling more than £1,750 and £860 every year, respectively, on costs including uniforms, learning materials, school trips, packed lunches and transport.

Over 14 years of education – excluding the costs of before and after-school childcare and items like laptops and printers – essential education bills can total up to £18,345.85 per child, which the charity believes shows more support is needed to ensure all children can learn equally.

The research, which was informed by interviews and focus groups, also found school costs vary dramatically depending on location, with low-income families in Scotland paying the least of any other country in the UK.

With the Best Start Grant, universal free school meals for children in P1 to P5, means-tested school clothing grants available nationally, and universal free bus travel for young people under 22 years old, the lowest earning parents in Scotland pay £16.46 for their children’s primary education per week, compared to £30.85 for parents in England, £22.53 for those in Wales, and £20.88 in Northern Ireland.

For some parents of secondary school children, the outlay in Scotland is around a quarter less than for families in all other nations.

However, in the report, CPAG also highlighted that 16% of children in poverty living in Scotland are not eligible for free school meals through national schemes. The Scottish government planned to introduce free school meals for all primary pupils by 2022, but the rollout for P6 and P7 has been delayed until 2024.

Kate Anstey, head of CPAG’s Cost of the School Day programme, which aims to reduce financial barriers that prevent pupils from fully participating in the school, said: “Parents are guilt-stricken when their kids are left out at school but when you can’t cover the electricity bill, how is a new PE kit affordable?

“Our research shows there’s a hefty and often hidden price tag for just the basic essentials needed for school. For struggling families, it can feel more like pay-as-you-go than universal education. It’s on each national government to intervene and ensure that every child has at the very least the essentials required to take part in school and learn. Without that intervention, the very idea of universal education and equal life chances for children is undermined.”

Young child playing with lego of various colours

New funding announced to improve access to childcare and after school clubs

Posted 04.05.23 by Alice Hinds

Scotland’s most disadvantaged communities will soon benefit from additional funding for after school and holiday clubs, the Scottish Government has announced.

Local authorities are now able to apply for a share of £4.5 million to support and improve indoor and outdoor spaces within school estates, with education settings encouraged to consider the wider needs of their local community after the first year.

Announced at a national anti-poverty summit in Edinburgh, the fund is open to all local authorities, however, applicants will need to demonstrate how they have worked in partnership with school age childcare and activities providers, outline ambitious ideas, and define how projects will benefit children and families, particularly those from low-income areas.

Managed and administered by Scottish Futures Trust, the funding is targeted at families on the lowest incomes, specifically the six priority family types identified in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan – lone parent families, minority ethnic families, families with a disabled adult or child, families with a mother under 25, families with a child under one, and larger families.

First Minister, Humza Yousaf said: “Helping families deal with cost of living pressures is one of our key priorities and providing further funding for affordable and accessible school age childcare will help deliver that. Funded school age childcare supports parents and carers into work and enables them to support their families, while also providing a nurturing environment for children to take part in a wide range of activities.”

With all three- and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds currently entitled to 1,140 hours of funded early learning and childcare per year, the First Minister said Scotland has the “most generous childcare offer anywhere in the UK”, and developing a funded early learning and childcare offer for one and two-year-olds will be a key focus over the next three years.

Identifying tackling poverty and inequality as the biggest challenge facing Scotland today, he also said “nothing will be off the table” to help households struggling with the cost of living, and with input from campaigners, businesses, third sector organisations, local government, and those with direct experience of hardship, the summit will “drive new momentum in the fight against poverty in Scotland”.

Research reveals almost half of secondary school pupils are missing out on hobbies

Media release

10 February

New research reveals that almost half of young people of secondary school age are missing out on out-of-school activities or hobbies, with young people living in areas of high deprivation even less likely to take part. 

New Ipsos research commissioned by Children in Scotland asked 1500 young people aged 11 to 18 about the clubs and activities they took part in after school or at the weekend.  

It found that only 54% of young people of secondary school age said that they take part in a club or activity outside of school. This dropped to 45% among secondary school aged children living in the areas of highest deprivation, compared with 65% in the most affluent areas. Those living with a physical or mental health condition were also less likely to take part in clubs or activities out of school.  

Children in Scotland commissioned the research to support the call to government for a national hobby premium to ensure that all children and young people in Scotland have free access to a hobby or activity of their choosing.

Click here to read our policy briefing: “Why Scotland should introduce a Hobby Premium: The Right to Play”

Click here to read our Manifesto for 2021-26 which includes the call for a Hobby Premium.

Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children have a right to leisure and play. Hobbies are a way for children to play, explore their interests, build skills, make mistakes and grow.  

Evidence from countries where support for hobbies is in place, for example Finland, shows that taking part in hobbies has a hugely positive impact on children and young people’s confidence, wellbeing and learning. Benefits can be both immediate and longer term. However, barriers such as cost and availability can mean that not all children have equal access to hobbies and their associated benefits.

Survey results

Providing data on the current Scottish context, responses from 1533 secondary school pupils as part of an Ipsos survey, conducted between September - December 2022, revealed that: 

  • Overall, about half (54%) of secondary school aged children (S1 to S6) say they are currently taking part in an out of school club or activity 
  • Less than half (45%) of secondary school aged children living in the areas of highest deprivation are taking part in an out of school club or activity. This compares with 65% in the most affluent areas.  
  • Young people with a physical or mental health condition are less likely to take part in a club or activity than those with no physical or mental health condition (51% and 62% respectively)  
  • Slightly more children who identify as white take part in clubs and activities than those who identify with another ethnicity (56% and 52% respectively) 
  • Rates of participation in clubs and activities are broadly the same for girls and boys (54% and 55% respectively) 
  • Rates of participation in clubs and activities are broadly the same for those living in rural and urban areas (52% and 54% respectively) 

The call for a hobby premium

On the results from the survey and their implications for children and young people’s health and wellbeing, Head of Policy, Projects and Participation at Children in Scotland, Amy Woodhouse says:

“It’s of real concern that a significant proportion of young people are not taking part in a club or after school activity.  That participation is less common for those living in areas with high deprivation or with a physical or mental health condition adds to evidence from elsewhere that barriers relating to cost and accessibility can be an influencing factor.  

Given the importance of hobbies to physical and emotional wellbeing, we need government to take up the call for a hobby premium and invest in increasing access to hobbies for all children living in Scotland.  

For more information about the Hobby Premium: 

Click here to read our Policy Briefing on the call for a Hobby Premium: Why Scotland should introduce a Hobby Premium: The Right to Play

Click here to read a blog from includem’s Tuisku “Snow” Curtis-Kolu on what we can learn from Finland about establishing a Hobby Premium 

Media contact: Catherine Bromley – email

Notes for editors

Project background 

Children in Scotland launched the call for a Hobby Premium for Scotland within its 2021-26 Manifesto, published in November 2020. The call is supported by Children in Scotland’s members and its partners across the sector including Play Scotland, Early Years Scotland, Children 1st, YouthLink Scotland and Together.


2021-2026 Manifesto

Our Manifesto outlines key suggested changes in policy and legislation - it contains 10 themes and 33 calls

Click here to access

The call for a Hobby Premium

Read our policy briefing: “Why Scotland should introduce a Hobby Premium: The Right to Play”

Click here to read

Consultation responses

Our members' expertise informs positions we take on child policy and legislation

Click here to read

Children's Rights and the UNCRC Training

Bridging policy and practice: bespoke children's rights training tailored to your organisation’s needs

Click here for more
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 long hair, looking at the camera. She is wearing a fluffy jumper

Q&A with Lorna MacPhail: Bringing mindfulness to education

Posted 24 August, 2022 by Nina Joynson

Ahead of her webinar, 'Big emotions in the classroom', Lorna MacPhail talks to us about how to better support wellbeing in schools in order to create supportive spaces for both children and teachers.

What do we mean when we talk about ‘big emotions’ in a classroom setting?

It’s important to mention here that all emotions are welcome. They are part of our human experience and provide insight into what is going on for the individual. Everyone responds differently to situations – some individuals could be loud and expressive, while others may be quieter and more withdrawn. It is important for anyone working with children to recognise emotions at both ends of the scale.

The big emotions for me are the ones that sit at either end of the scale. The aim is to support the child to notice their experience and have the strategies to bring themselves back into homeostasis or equilibrium.

Your work often focuses on mindfulness and the emotional and social needs of children. Do you think we’re lacking empathy towards these needs in schools?

I wouldn’t say those who work with children lack in empathy, but we do need to develop a deeper understanding of the impact of trauma and stress on the body, mind and heart.

We also need to equip teachers with confidence to deliver effective strategies to help children find the middle ground. When children are calm and at ease, they focus more easily and can take on and process information. It is extremely important that classroom practitioners are well-trained in good mindfulness practices to implement these strategies effectively.

I do think there can be a lack of empathy between adults. There is so much pressure on everyone at every level of the education system and people feel overwhelmed and exhausted. For me it is about finding ways to be more considerate in our communication and more compassionate towards ourselves.

The pandemic has meant children and teachers have had to radically shift their understanding of the classroom, and in many cases, their approach to teaching a class full of children again. What do you think are some of the biggest challenges?

What I notice the most is children’s ability to focus has worsened during the pandemic. We know one of the factors which impact the ability to focus is stress and children will have absorbed the stress of their family and teachers, perhaps watched the news and of course been aware of everything that has been going on around them for the last few years.

On top of this, the range of needs in a classroom seems to be getting bigger with more children requiring individualised educational programmes. The biggest challenge for teachers is meeting the needs of all children in their class, which then adds to the level of stress they’re already experiencing.

Teachers and children need strategies to support them in managing stress and connecting to calm, now more than ever. There is already great work going on in Scottish schools, however integrating effective strategies of mindfulness and compassion can offer both children and those who work with them the tools to navigate the challenges of modern life more effectively.

Big emotions in the classroom takes place in September. Who is the workshop aimed at? What would you like them to take away from the session?

This workshop is aimed at headteachers, educational leaders, heads of department, primary and secondary teachers and anyone who is connected to educating children.

I will aim to help school leaders and teachers think about how they can integrate an effective whole school mindfulness-based approach to wellbeing. I will address common misconceptions of what mindfulness is and demonstrate simple ways teachers can integrate these strategies in their classroom to help children with focus and concentration. We will also explore how compassionate practices can develop resilience, self-belief and pave the way for communication that empowers all.

Delegates will leave with strategies that they can implement straight away and build confidence in delivering these strategies effectively.

Lorna MacPhail is a wellbeing consultant and embodiment coach. Click here to visit her website

She will be leading the online session 'Big emotions in the classroom: tools to navigate' on Wednesday 14 September. Click here to find out more and book

Photo of two children walking away from the camera. The one on the left is shorter, with short hair, and the one on the right is taller and has long hair in a ponytail.

News: Children younger in school year more likely to be treated for ADHD

Posted 6 July, 2022 by Nina Joynson

A new study has revealed that children who are younger in the school year are more likely to receive treatment for ADHD, suggesting immaturity may influence diagnosis.

Researchers at Swansea University and the University of Glasgow have found a relationship between age within school cohort and treatment for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Health and education records of more than one million children were linked in order to study associations between age and ADHD in primary and secondary pupils.

The research also considered the impact of holding children back in school. It accounted for pupils that were held back by one year either due to a belief that they would manage poorly when competing against older peers, or because they might benefit from additional schooling.

Research findings

The results of the study, which looked at children in both Scotland and Wales, revealed that:

  • Less than 1% (0.87%) of children in the study were treated for ADHD (0.84% in Scotland; 0.96% in Wales)
  • Children who were amongst the youngest in their class were more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis and treatment
  • More children started school later than the school-starting age in Scotland (7.66%) than in Wales (0.78%)
  • Children who did not start school the same time as their peers were more likely to be treated for ADHD. Of these, 81.18% would have been the youngest in their school year
  • Children who started later more likely to be male, affluent, preterm and low birth weight
  • The prevalence of ADHD was higher in boys, and increased with deprivation, maternal smoking during pregnancy, lower maternal age, birth weight and APGAR scores.

Overall, the findings suggest that relational immaturity may influence whether a child is treated for ADHD. This discovery could have potential future clinical and policy implications.

Professor Michael Fleming, joint first author from the University of Glasgow said:

“Our findings revealed that children younger within the school year are more likely to be treated for ADHD, suggesting immaturity may influence diagnosis. However, this trend looks to be masked in countries with flexible start date policies where younger children with attention or behavioural problems are more likely to be held back a year.

"Holding back children does not appear to reverse the need for ADHD medication. It is possible that holding back children with ADHD might, nonetheless, improve other outcomes."

The Scottish part of the study was sponsored by Health Data Research UK.  The Welsh research was supported by the National Centre for Population Health and Well-Being Research (NCPHWR).

Click here to read the full press release from Swansea University

“Children don’t need shorter holidays or longer school days. They need more play”

1 April 2021

Margaret McLelland, manager of St Mirin’s Out of School Club –  a recipient of funding from Children in Scotland’s Access to Childcare Fund – explains why play is so fundamental to childhood and learning. This article was originally published by Inspiring Scotland as one of their practitioner guides resources

There has never been a more crucial time for play not only in Scotland but across the world. A global pandemic has deprived children of so many play experiences. Media are covering the “gap” and “loss” of learning and how Scotland might address the impact of “lost learning”.

Our children don’t need more school, reduced holidays, extended educational days. They need more play! Mental health and wellbeing are a priority for our children. This needs to be intact before children even begin the process of learning and what better way to do this than through play?

As manager of an out of school club based in a primary school we have been engaging with the school long before the pandemic. We now recognise there is even more additionality we could offer and bring to the school. As play practitioners and professionals we are highly trained, and our skills and expertise have the potential to enhance the whole school community.

It starts with relationships, from there we build mutual respect between the teaching staff and the play professionals. This has certainly raised the profile and understanding of play by highlighting what can be achieved through play. By this I mean play indoors and especially outdoors, play guided by the playwork principles, play in both its forms of structured and unstructured, play that is spontaneous, self-directed and assists children to meet their own needs, play that involves risk, compromise, negotiation , trust, choice, collaboration and empowerment for children. The teaching staff have an understanding of play to an extent but their educational understanding of play at times does not lend itself to play in the biological sense.

Our play journey

So, we are embarking on a journey to incorporate more play in the school day not only for lower primary years but the whole school. Our initial aim was to enthuse school management that play is a perfect vehicle in which learning unfolds and unravels. Play is the universal language of childhood and enabling playful environments for children provides them with a plethora of opportunities to develop their imagination and curiosity. The physical benefits of play are well known. Play (particularly outdoor play) increases wellbeing, increasing oxygen levels, heart rates, activity levels and obesity but the mental health benefits and development of soft skills enhanced by play are much less well known and understood. As an out of school service, we hoped we might highlight this in the school we operate within.

How to bring more play to your school

We approached our head teacher about the possibility of bringing more play to the school day. Our initial discussions enabled us to recognise the educational drivers, but we were able to introduce how play could provide an excellent platform for learning in a more autonomous way. Together we discussed how we might introduce play and it may have the potential to enhance learning experiences and outcomes for children. Finally, we agreed what was to become a plan! There has been challenges, but we are taking tentative steps towards a more playful school. One such challenge is addressing the view that play is frivolous, it’s what children get to do as a reward or its “messing around”. The complexity of play can mean it can be some of that but professional observations of play can unravel exactly what is being achieved and learned by children even in the “messing around” stages of play.

Our initial attempts at bringing play to the school day were very positive. We started by introducing play professionals to the playground. Children were naturally drawn to these playful adults and engaged almost immediately in active play. To us this was a great introductory starting point not only for the children but for the teaching staff on duty in the playground. We recognised immediately this was play however we realised our intervention style was leading and our preferred state is to be observing and leaving the content and intent of play to the children. But it was a starting point. Even though our team were involved in play our skilled observations told us which children were demonstrating leadership whist others were content to follow. It was also noticed which children were at ease in play whilst others required adult play cues to get involved. The challenge for play professionals was being very aware we were not staying true to our play principles.

However, we promptly agreed this was an excellent stating point on which to build trust with children. So, we viewed this stage as an introduction to play in its simplest form. Our other school involvement was to explore health and wellbeing in playful experiences. This was a one-hour sessions, 5 days per week for small groups of children (max 8) We used play to help children recognise feelings and emotions. Again, this is a more structured type of play but a very worthwhile pilot in which we learned there is most certainly a need for playing more therapeutically with children. Throughout the weeks we introduced the concept of play to the school we were receiving excellent feedback from the school staff team. We engaged in numerous meetings with the head teacher and we laid out our initial plans to bring more play to the school day. We advised the head teacher that this, to us, was a starting point as true play not peppered by outcomes would still achieve and benefit children.

Even in this early stage of our pilot we were able to highlight some children who may need some support to further engage and this finding was echoed by the school as some children were receiving educational support. This highlighted that play can be used to assist children with social and communicative skills which in our play world are as important as academic success.

The challenges and successes

Then COVID and lockdown stopped all of us in our tracks. Since March 2020 we have been unable to further our journey with this. Even being back briefly the restrictions made it impossible to mix certain groups and social distancing meant the whole school physical space and environment prevented us moving forward. The second lockdown came rapidly after the first and today (February 2021) we are hopeful we will be returning to school 15th March. The fantastic news is that St Mirin’s Out of School club has been successful in a major funding bid to the Access to Childcare Fund.

Our application included funding even more play into the school day. We commenced a breakfast and play club which is receiving excellent feedback from families. This funding will also enable us to increase our time working within the school day enabling more play and playing therapeutically to gain best outcomes for our school community. We will also be operating two nights per week 6pm-8pm with our “Simply Play” model. This will very much be guided by our playwork principles of self-directed play.

Our journey has only just begun, and it is new territory for school and out of school to collaborate and work in partnership in such a way. It has had its challenges but for the most part early indications are that this joined-up approach of play and learning can be one of the same thing. Learning through play in all its forms is in my opinion the best method for some children to learn.

Strengthening access and affordability

The Fund provides grants focusing on priority groups most at risk from poverty

Find out more

The value of outdoors play-based learning

Inspiring Scotland originally published Margaret's blog in their practitioner guide series

Find out more

Manifesto for School Age Childcare

The Scottish Out of School Care Network has published a series of calls

Read more

Families need services that are 'here to stay'

The final report of our CHANGE project sets out how to improve local childcare

Find out more

Shetland childcare setting scoops prize

Hame Fae Hame Shetland, funded by the Access to Childcare Fund, has won a major award

Find out more

Hope in hard times

Our Manifesto for 2021-26 includes key calls on childcare and the value of play

Find out more

Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan

The Access to Childcare fund addresses one of the actions highlighted in Every Child, Every Chance

Find out more

“When a child moves from primary to secondary, there is a drastic upping of stakes in social comparison”

14 December 2018

For our 25 Calls campaign we interviewed Professor Richard Wilkinson, co-author of the groundbreaking book The Spirit Level and its 2018 follow-up The Inner Level. In part four of an extensive interview, he discusses how intersecting identities of gender, race and more are affected by increased inequality, and why family environment shapes our perceptions of the world

Children in Scotland: What do you think about intersectionality and discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, age, sexuality, how that might figure in producing poorer wellbeing in children and young people?

Richard Wilkinson: They’re spin-offs of the same issues. Given that there is this huge differential in how much people are valued, no one wants to belong to a group who are seen as inferior whether that is a matter of class, ethnicity or gender. If you’re black you mind all the discrimination against ethnic minorities very much. And if you’re gay or female similarly. These aren’t separate issues. I often say that when anything becomes a marker of low social status it then attracts what are basically the same forms of discrimination, so whether it’s lower class accents, or whether it’s skin colour, or religious affiliation, or in some societies the language group, when any of those become markers of inferiority or low social status, they attract the same sort of stigma and discrimination. And the way we must get rid of them is making sure that there isn’t this huge differential in how people are valued.

Being at the bottom of the social ladder would not of course feel much better if you knew that equal numbers of men, women, black, and white, and so on were at the bottom of the social ladder. We have to make sure the differences are smaller and the social ladder is not so steep.

CiS: You describe in The Inner Level how inequality penetrates family life from the earliest age. Could you say a bit more about how that comes about and how we might be able to prevent it?

RW: The quality of social relationships in the family, from very early on, shape the development of children. People have always talked about the quality of family life as being crucial – indeed more important than whether you have one parent or two parents is the quality of your relationships with whoever your carer or carers are. And, again, I think we need to see this in terms of evolutionary psychology. I’m sorry to keep repeating this, but people’s social environment, their subjective experience, can influence gene expression meaning not that it changes your genetic make-up but that it switches genes on and off so you develop differently according to your social experience. The point of those mechanisms, why we have them and why they exist in animals and even plants, is to allow the young to adapt to the kind of world they’re growing up in.

So a plant which experiences drought early on becomes better able to deal with drought when fully grown. In human beings it’s a matter of: what kind of social relationships are we going to have to deal with? Am I going to have to fight for what I can get? Learn not to trust others because we’re rivals? Or am I in a world where I depend on trust, on reciprocity, on cooperation? Although family life is no longer a good indication of what the world out there in wider society is like, early social experiences still affects our emotional and cognitive development in a way that would have made perfect sense if you were part of a hunting and gathering band, where you interacted with lots of adults and you should learn whether everyone is cooperative and helpful or whether there’s a lot of conflict.

The strong tendency to much higher rates of bullying in more unequal societies is perhaps because children are almost programmed into hierarchical relationships. I don’t think we’re in a position to make a clear distinction between how much comes from family life and how much comes from school experience, but it is clear that when children move from primary school to secondary school and into their teenage years, suddenly finding themselves in this enormous social environment with a thousand or more other kids, it’s an incredibly difficult process. It drastically ups the stakes on social comparisons and puts you in a framework where you feel vulnerable to being judged all the time rather than being amongst a small group of people who know you well and have bonds with. And the experience of bullying can leave life-long scars. It affects how people see themselves and feel others see them; it makes social interaction much more fraught.

CiS: In terms of a family that might be struggling, exposed to violence, or dealing with poverty, do you think we’re any further forward in policy terms in early intervention? In Scotland, it could be argued, it’s talked about, paid lip service to, but there’s little sign of a substantive policy and legislative shift around it.

RW: I think the Labour government was making some progress in reducing child poverty and providing some preschool support but some of that’s been undone, and of course child poverty is forecast to rise. It’s very damaging. Not only in the way I’ve described, but also because there is a sense in which part of the function of parenting is to pass on the experience of life, so if you as a parent have experienced a lot of adversity and felt you had to fight for what you can get, then you probably feel you need to toughen your children up to prepare them for that same experience. I sometimes refer to a court case where women were on trial because they’d been making their toddlers fight. On trial they apparently showed no remorse, but said it was important to toughen [the children] up. If that’s your experience of the social world then you can’t let your children grow up too soft. And yet, if they find themselves in a different world they may not be good at being cooperative and trusting, which would have looked soft in another world. So, it’s not a matter of whether we should all be either more cooperative or harder, in about adjusting to the reality of the society you’re in. Why I focus on inequalities, is because I think it makes a fundamental difference to the social reality – the quality of social relationships – in the wider society.

Click here to read part one of the interview

Click here to read part two of the interview

Click here to read part three of the interview

Richard Wilkinson is Professor Emeritus of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, Honorary Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London and Visiting Professor at University of York. He co-founded The Equality Trust with Kate Pickett.

The Inner Level is published by Penguin.

Interview by Chris Small. Edited by Morgaine Das Varma.

About the interviewee

Co-author of 'The Spirit Level', Richard Wilkinson is a world renowned expert on inequality

Click here to find out more

Read part 3 of the interview

“There is so much more bullying in schools in more unequal societies. But why?”

Click to read the Q&A

Read part 2 of the interview

“Inequality makes us more antisocial so we use social media more antisocially than in an egalitarian society”

Click to read the Q&A

Read part 1 of the interview

“How do we challenge inequality? We need to build a mass movement”

Click to read the Q&A

What can you do about child poverty?

Professor Wilkinson contributed context and analysis to Call 2, on tackling child poverty

Click to read the call

25 Calls to improve children's lives

We spoke to Professor Wilkinson as part of our 25 Calls campaign

Click to find out more