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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.”

Children with hands raised in school classroom
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.

Encouraging moves on participation, and a promise to hold parliament to account

11 May 2021

How do the political parties’ pledges compare to our own Manifesto calls? Following the Scottish election, our Policy, Projects & Participation Officer Parisa Shirazi reflects on likely areas of agreement during the next parliament – and examples of where we’ll be pushing for faster change to improve children’s lives.

It’s clear from our work that children all over Scotland have views on important issues and suggestions on what they think should be better. These range from the Inclusion Ambassadors’ perspectives on how additional support for learning in schools could be improved, to our young people’s advisory group Changing our World’s prioritising of the environment as a key issue for them, to the Children and Young People’s Panel on Europe’s recommendations to the Scottish and UK Governments regarding Brexit.

We believe that any government and parliament must listen to the views of its children and young people to enact policies to improve their lives. That was the starting point for the creation of our 2021-26 Manifesto, which presents 33 asks of the next Scottish Parliament.

Click here for more information about our 2021-26 Manifesto

Following last Thursday’s election, the SNP will again form a government. It’s therefore useful to review their manifesto promises for children, young people and their families, identify policies that progress children’s rights – and explore areas where their pledges could be bolder.

Rights and democracy: positive steps on Citizens’ Assemblies

Young people should be able to participate in democracy and have their rights respected. One of our calls in our Manifesto was that children and young people would have a say in key government decision-making processes, including Citizens’ Assemblies, building on the success of enfranchising 16- and 17-year-olds. Therefore, we welcome the SNP’s commitment to establishing an assembly for children and young people under 16.

Scottish Labour had committed to ensuring young people are represented in national and local bodies through a statutory right to consultation, and we hope that this can also be considered. We are encouraged that the SNP supports incorporating international human rights, including the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Convention of the Elimination for Racial Discrimination, and the Convention of Elimination of Discrimination against Women. We advocated for all of these treaties in our Manifesto because incorporating them is essential for embedding the rights of children and young people into law. The SNP and the Liberal Democrats have also committed to incorporating the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights into law, which could lead to positive changes in the areas of social security, livings standards, health and education.

Reconsidering the minimum age of criminal responsibility

Since 2019, the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Scotland has been 12 (raised from the age of eight). Although this raise was welcomed, we do not believe it went far enough. If Scotland wants to continue to be a world leader on children’s rights, we believe they should readdress how children displaying harmful behaviours are treated. Scotland must learn from other nations that have higher minimum ages of criminal responsibility and take childhood development into account. In light of this, our Manifesto calls on the next parliament to raise the age to 16. The Liberal Democrats committed to bringing this into line with UN recommendations and Scottish Labour pledged to reviewing it. Let’s hope the parties will work together on this issue.

Security for refugees and asylum seekers

Scotland should be a country that welcomes people all over the world and appreciates the diversity of its society. Refugees must be provided with a safe and secure environment. We acknowledge that many areas that affect refugees and those seeking asylum are reserved to Westminster. But our Manifesto calls on the parliament to work with the UK Government to develop policies and practices that will benefit all those seeking asylum. We are encouraged to note that four out of the five main political parties (SNP, Greens, Labour and Liberal Democrats) have made a range of commitments to supporting this group.

Therefore, we look forward to the SNP acting on their pledge to improve existing support for families to have access to safe accommodation. And we hope that they will work constructively with other parties to bring about other types of support, such as the development of national standards on refugee settlement, including the accommodation and care of unaccompanied children (a policy proposed by Scottish Labour).

Education: PSE reform, making arts accessible and commitments on diversity

If you followed our pre-election social media campaign, you would have seen that education is a key issue for Scotland’s young people. Changing our World created an array of materials directed at decision-makers advocating for the changes they would like to see in Personal and Social Education (PSE). PSE was not mentioned in the SNP’s manifesto and although we are pleased to note their pledge to include a new programme of anti-racism education in schools which will rely on local authority uptake, we hope that the SNP will work constructively with their Green colleagues to improve the PSE curriculum in schools.

We were pleased to note that various parties appreciated the importance of arts and music in schools and increasing the accessibility of this for pupils through measure such as abolishing fees for music and arts education. But we believe that this can be bolder and a hobby premium should be introduced. This policy would grant all children and young people in Scotland free access to a hobby or activity of their choice within or around the school day. Furthermore, none of the parties have committed to making wellbeing a central focus of the curriculum or increasing the diversity of the education workforce. We will continue our work and campaigning in these areas.

Building on a base of participation

This election was noteworthy for having the highest turnout of voters in a Scottish election, the galvanisation of young voters and the fact it was the first in which those with refugee status and foreign nationals could vote. In this blog I’ve identified welcome policy areas in the SNP’s Manifesto alongside notable gaps and some measures that could be pushed further. We at Children in Scotland will continue to hold parliament and the Scottish Government to account over the next five years.

About the author

Parisa is Policy, Projects & Participation Officer and joined us in January 2021

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2021-26 Manifesto

Our Manifesto features 33 calls across 10 themes, from learning to democracy

Click here to read it

"Making political ideas accessible"

A Children and Young People’s Version of our Manifesto for 2021-26 is also available

Click here to find out more

"Listen to young people on education"

Our young advisory group produced campaign materials linked to the Manifesto

Click here to find out more

"Let pupils pursue their passions"

Amy Woodhouse wrote a blog for TES about the importance of a 'hobby premium'

Click here to read more

"It's our future too"

Our Panel on Europe partnership project heard young people's views on Scotland post-Brexit

Click here to find out more

Manifesto launches with calls for wellbeing to be at heart of Scottish budget and children protected from air pollution

13 November 2020

Children in Scotland today launches its Manifesto for the 2021-26 Scottish Parliament, backed by national and local organisations from across the children’s sector.

The Manifesto outlines key changes in policy and legislation the charity believes the next Scottish Government must make to improve outcomes for children and young people living in Scotland, and their families.

Click here to download a copy of the Manifesto

It contains 10 themes and 33 calls, with demands of political parties including:

Drawing on the experience in Finland to introduce a ‘hobby premium’ to ensure that all children and young people in Scotland have free access to a hobby or activity of their choice within or around the school day.

Rights and democracy
Supporting Citizens Assemblies to extend their scope to include the voice and perspectives of under-16s.

Economic planning
Producing a comprehensive Wellbeing Budget by 2022 to ensure that the annual Scottish budget is designed and implemented with the goal of improving the wellbeing of all citizens in Scotland, including children, young people and families.

Improving air quality in locations where children live, learn and play: a school air quality monitoring and education scheme should be introduced to measure air quality, educate children and families about this issue, and reduce children’s exposure to harmful pollutants.

Children in Scotland’s Chief Executive Jackie Brock said:

“Our Manifesto is being launched at the end of a punishing year for so many children and families, but we feel there’s a shared recognition that this is also a time for a radical change in direction for policymaking and legislation.

“We now need a deeper and more wholehearted restructuring of society, based on redistributing power to children, young people and families who’ve never had it before. Taken together the calls in this Manifesto make that case.”

Amy Woodhouse, the charity’s Head of Policy, Projects and Participation, said:

“This Manifesto builds on three examples of hugely significant policy change in Scotland over the past year – the recommendations of the Independent Care Review, the introduction of the Equal Protection Act, and the promise of full incorporation of the UNCRC.

“These are all powerful signs of the effectiveness of collective campaigning to make change for children, and we’ll be taking forward our 2021-26 Manifesto in that spirit.

“In the run-up to the election as we use this Manifesto to influence parties’ policy platforms, we will welcome the support and solidarity of other organisations who may wish to endorse our calls.”

Organisations who have already endorsed the Manifesto in full include Save the Children, Children 1st, YouthLink Scotland, Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights), PEEK (Possibilities for Each and Every Kid), Includem, Play Scotland, Starcatchers, the Health and Social Care Alliance and the Yard.

Organisations that have signed up to specific themes include the Children’s Parliament (Theme 1), Friends of the Earth Scotland (Theme 9), Place2Be (Themes 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 10) and the Royal Caledonian Education Trust (Themes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 10).

The Manifesto was shared yesterday with Children in Scotland’s members, and attendees at the charity’s online annual conference.

It has been developed over the past 18 months with input from Children in Scotland’s members, its children and young people’s advisory group, and its staff and Board.

Media contacts

Chris Small:

Catherine Bromley:

Photography from the Manifesto is available to publish on request. Please contact Chris Small or Catherine Bromley.

2021-26 Manifesto: PDF version

Download a PDF booklet of the Manifesto to read our themes and calls

Click to download the PDF

2021-26 Manifesto: Page Suite version

Read our themes and calls on the Page Suite digital platform with 'flickable' pages

Click to read on Page Suite

2021-26 Manifesto: Young People's Version

A short, child-friendly version and summary of all our themes and calls

Click to download it

Building Budgets for Children’s Wellbeing

Dr Katherine Trebeck's report informs many of our Manifesto themes

Click to download the report

Manifesto Magazine

Contributors from across the sector tell us why they're endorsing our Manifesto in this special edition

Click to read the magazine

A plan for renewal not simply recovery

Amy Woodhouse explains the approach we took to compiling the Manifesto

Click to read Amy's blog

Changing our World

Our young people's advisory group have been key to shaping the Manifesto

Click to find out more

UK Government Manifesto

In December 2019 we launched a children's manifesto for the new UK Government

Click to find out more

Parliamentary Monitor

We keep track of the latest policy developments relevant to children and families in Scotland, across the UK, and in Europe. 

This week in the Scottish Parliament

Tuesday 9 February

In the afternoon, in Topical Questions, Joan McAlpine to ask the Scottish Government what its response is to figures published by the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory, which state that people with a learning disability are three times more likely to die of COVID-19 and twice as likely to experience serious disease.

In Committees, the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee will hear evidence on the Climate Change Plan.

Wednesday 10 February

In the main chamber First Ministers Questions will include Christine Graham asking the First Minister whether the Scottish Government is considering children returning to full-time education during part of the traditional summer holiday period.

The Education and Skills Committee will consider regulations on the following legislation: The Repayment of Student Loans (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (SSI 2021/8) and Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill at Stage 2 (Day 1).

The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee will hear evidence on the Climate Change Plan.

Additionally, the Local Government and Communities Committee will look at ‘Community Wellbeing’ – Post-Legislative Scrutiny of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015.

Thursday 11 February

In the main chamber, in Portfolio Questions on the environment brief, Bill Kidd will ask the Scottish Government what environmental measures it has in place to support Scotland’s transition to become net-zero, and Elaine Smith will ask what importance it places on access to clean air and environmentally-friendly spaces within the National Performance Framework.

In Committee Business, the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee will take evidence on the Scottish Government's Budget 2021-22 and EU-UK trade and co-operation agreement

The Equalities and Human Rights Committee will consider the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill at Stage 2 (Day 1).
Click here to read Children in Scotland’s response to the open consultation on the Bill.

This week in Westminster

Tuesday 9 February

In the main chamber, Caroline Lucas will present an adjournment on the UK’s response to the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

Thursday 11 February

In the main chamber, Scottish Affairs Committee will hear oral evidence on Welfare policy in Scotland and the International Trade Committee will meet to hear oral evidence on the UK-EU trading relationship.


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Family voices ‘should shape policy' on food, learning and holidays

In a letter published in the Herald newspaper today, our Chief Executive Jackie Brock responded to a call by the Scottish Conservatives that schools should stay open as “community hubs” during the summer holidays, drawing on Children in Scotland’s learning from our Food, Families, Futures partnership project.

This is an edited extract from her letter:

The Scottish Conservatives’ proposal to keep schools open as “community hubs” throughout the summer raises further questions in an already complex policy debate about the best ways of challenging poverty’s impact on education and health.

Children in Scotland’s FFF project was sparked by headteachers telling us about children and parents in their communities potentially going hungry, missing out on meals because they simply couldn't afford food. This was exacerbated in holiday periods when the schools’ free meal provision ended. They were also worried about the children not getting the chance to have a holiday.

Our experience of the project thus far tells us that, when large-scale business (for example, food distribution company Brakes) and small-scale community organisations take action together to fight these problems, it can have a transformational effect. Families have reported to us their enjoyment of learning more about making food, taking part in activities, and simply being together. But this success has been down to a highly localised approach, where families lead the experience, and partner organisations operate from a deep understanding of each community’s differing characteristics and needs.

At the other end of the spectrum are more macro policy solutions. A Westminster Bill being proposed by Frank Field MP would, if enacted, mandate local authorities in England to facilitate delivery of programmes providing free meals and activities for children during school holidays. There may be pressure for equivalent legislation here.

We think a balance should be struck between learning from a bespoke community-level support and a ‘top down’ national approach that, while well-intentioned, might lose sight of important local realities.

For any policy approach to be effective, it must be sensitive to a multitude of issues. We need to respect school staff’s rights to holidays, and the rights of families not to be bound to their local school outside of term time. We should be wary of thinking that suggests keeping schools open through the summer is a catch-all solution to Scotland’s attainment problem. And we need to be mindful of labeling families as ‘poor’ and communities as ‘deprived’ in a way that doesn’t help them and doesn’t reflect the vitality and fun we saw in Glasgow and West Dunbartonshire over the past two months.

FFF is currently being evaluated by academics at Northumbria University who are looking at whether it has contributed to mitigating learning loss. In developing a policy approach that works we need to be drawing on evidence of this kind ‘in the round’, alongside clear-eyed testimony from children and families about what works for them. They deserve our support and their voices need to be heard as we keep this vital issue on the national agenda.


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Reach website “an advice service like no other” – SYP

An online advice portal, designed by young people for young people, has received high praise from the Scottish Youth Parliament and is being recommended as a resource by all MSYPs.

Reach, the website developed and run by Enquire, can help you understand children’s rights to be supported and involved in decisions so they have an equal chance to flourish in their education.

Hear from school pupils across Scotland sharing what has helped them and get accessible, bitesize advice on additional support for learning.

Reach is part of Enquire – the Scottish Advice Service for Additional Support for Learning – and is managed by Children in Scotland.

The website was the focus of discussion at the Scottish Youth Parliament’s sitting in March of this year, reflecting on the welcome and active participation of young people and the excellent resource produced as a result.

Aqeel Ahmed, previous Convenor of the Scottish Youth Parliament’s Education and Lifelong Learning Committee, took the time to write to staff at Enquire to highlight the Parliament’s support.

“We think the website is not just a resource for those who are struggling with mental health or are being bullied. It’s a resource for all of Scotland’s young people; an advice service like no other,”

“It has everything you want all on the same website! If you need exam advice, contacts for support organisations, are being bullied, or are having trouble with mental health, go visit now, folks!” - Aqeel Ahmed

Reach is run by Enquire, the Scottish advice service for additional support for learning.


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School pupils' views on STEM: Engineering and Maths 'need boost'

Schools need more support for Engineering activities and to make Maths as interesting and enjoyable as possible for pupils, a Children in Scotland report has found.

The report, which looks at children and young people’s experiences of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM)-related learning and their understanding of STEM jobs, also concluded that:

  • more women need to be encouraged to become Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths teachers
  • more men should be encouraged into careers in primary teaching, and
  • boys and girls should be supported to think about the types of jobs involving Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths

The Scottish Government commissioned Children in Scotland to carry out research as part of the consultation process to inform its STEM Education and Training Strategy for Scotland.

The project involved a series of engagement activities with children and young people to gather their views on learning and work and their lived experience of STEM.

The aim of the research project is to ensure that policymakers hear children and young people’s voices on the topic of STEM.

Children in Scotland worked with more than 70 children and young people, ranging from P3 to S2-age pupils across Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dumfries and Galloway.

Our Participation and Engagement staff enjoyed the work with the children and young people.

Jane Miller, Assistant Policy Officer at Children in Scotland, said: “It was fantastic to find out from children and young people about their experiences of STEM, especially as there are so many possibilities for all young people within the STEM fields.”


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An opportunity to strengthen the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill

Children in Scotland has urged MSPs to push for the inclusion of measures that will strengthen the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill, as it is debated today in the Scottish Parliament.

As a member of the End Child Poverty Coalition, Children in Scotland has made a number of recommendations, including:

  • The inclusion of statutory interim targets to help ensure that the Scottish Government and other public bodies are on track to achieve the targets set for 2030.
  • A requirement for delivery plans to include five specific components including: the use of Scottish social security powers; the provision of information, advice and assistance to parents and carers in relation to welfare rights; affordable housing; childcare; and parental employment.
  • Improvements to the measurement framework that will be used to understand and measure poverty, and assurances that children and young people will be central to the evaluation process.
  • A requirement for local poverty action plans to plan for the upcoming year, rather than just reporting on the previous year.


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Calls for a holistic, preventative approach to tackling health inequalities

Children in Scotland has backed calls made by the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee to take a more holistic approach in the health prevention agenda, and urged more engagement with children and young people in the process.

Yesterday (Tuesday 18), the Committee debated health prevention, focusing on the need for prevention and preventative spending in relation to tackling the socio-economic inequalities in health.

Children in Scotland was pleased to see recognition of the need to tackle the socio-economic factors that contribute to health inequalities, and welcome this being proposed by the Committee.

We support the calls made throughout the debate. Specifically we welcome the whole-government approach and the adoption of a 'Health in All Policies Approach' designed to utilise policy levers throughout all areas of government to address persistent health inequalities.

Responding to the Committee's calls, Amy Woodhouse, Head of Policy, said:

“The Scottish Government must ensure a wide-ranging, bold and appropriately resourced policy platform that is focused on tackling health inequalities.

“It needs to include the public health measures raised in the debate in relation to alcohol marketing and a concerted strategy on obesity, but also take into account the impact of education or tax policy. Moves to narrow the attainment gap and narrow income inequality will have a huge impact on health outcomes.

“We believe there must also be a commitment to greater engagement with communities to ensure understanding of the local context to promote appropriate local interventions. This engagement must put children and young people at its heart to understand how their community and local services can appropriately support their healthcare needs and facilitate good health.

“A commitment to tackling health inequalities is part of our wider commitment to a child rights approach.”

Earlier this month Children in Scotland warned about the impact the Westminster Benefit Cap will have on child poverty and health inequalities.

Benefit cap inquiry

Benefit cap will increase child poverty and perpetuate health inequalities

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Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee

Find out more about the Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee

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