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

Posted 17.08.23 by Alice Hinds

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two smiling people wear purple t-shirts and headsets while typing at keyboards

Exam helpline opens to support Scottish pupils on results day

Posted 27.07.23 by Alice Hinds

Scottish pupils will be able to access free, impartial career advice after receiving their exam results via a dedicated helpline offered by Skills Development Scotland (SDS).

The SDS Results Helpline will remain open from 8am on Tuesday 8 August until Friday 11 August, providing advice for any worried parents, carers and pupils, who will have just received final grades for Higher, National and Advanced exams.

More than 30 expert careers advisers from across Scotland will be on hand to assist around 144,000 school pupils, and answer questions on everything from securing a college or university place through clearing to finding apprenticeships, jobs and volunteering opportunities, while also providing reassurance if results haven’t been as expected.

Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth said: “Results day can be a very emotional one for pupils, parents and carers, so the opportunity to speak directly with someone who can offer impartial, expert advice on your options can be really valuable.

“Whatever your results, there are options out there for you. I would encourage anyone with any concerns, no matter how small, to phone the SDS careers experts.”

With approximately 80% of all calls usually received within the first two days after results are made available, the Results Helpline will be open for 12 hours (8am to 8pm) on 8 and 9 August, before being reduced to normal working hours (9am to 5pm) on 10 and 11 August.

SDS works with the Scottish Government, Scottish Qualifications Authority, UCAS and Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) to support pupils during results time, and Sharon McIntyre, Head of Career Information, Advice and Guidance Operations at the national skills agency, says there are a “breadth of options open” to school-leavers.

She added: “It’s important to reassure people that no matter what their results are, our advisers are there to provide expert advice. Even after the Results Helpline closes, people of all ages can still get great advice anytime from our careers advisers across the country, in school or through our local centres and community venues, as well as online at My World of Work.”

Call the SDS Results Helpline on 0808 100 8000 or click here to visit the website:

A young person plays guitar in the foreground, while another plays violin in the background

Youth Music Initiative funding confirmed by Scottish Government

Posted 25.05.23 by Alice Hinds

From pipe bands to singing workshops, thousands of young musicians will continue to benefit from Youth Music Initiative (YMI) funding, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

Culture Secretary Angus Robertson announced that the flagship programme, administered by Creative Scotland, will receive £9.5 million for 2023, including £500,000 to expand the successful model into other art forms.

Aiming to put “music at the heart of children and young people’s lives and learning”, the YMI enables schools and other organisations to provide quality music-making activities, supporting all musical genres, age groups and teaching methods.

First introduced in 2003, the education programme has supported more than 230 projects each year across the country, from African Drumming workshops in Shetland to Children in Scotland’s recent Innovation Labs (click here for more), with 362,000 children and young people taking part in YMI-funded projects during 2021-22 alone.

The funding has also supported 1,182 music education posts across all of Scotland’s 32 local authorities.

The news comes after parents, teachers and tutors expressed fears over the flagship programme’s future when funding was initially paused last year during The Scottish Government’s emergency budget review.

Announcing the funding award during a visit to Murrayburn Primary School, Edinburgh, where pupils have benefitted from the programme, the Culture Secretary said: “Music plays a vitally important role in young people’s lives, and beyond developing their wider skills and learning we know these kinds of activities also have a huge positive impact on their confidence and wellbeing.

“We are committed to ensuring every school pupil in Scotland can access a year of free music tuition by the time they leave primary school through the YMI, no matter their background. YMI is focused on creating opportunities for groups of children and young people who may not otherwise have the chance to participate in cultural activity.

“This year’s funding takes our investment in this programme to more than £150 million since 2007, to enable free music tuition for hundreds of thousands of young people, and support thousands of music sector jobs across the country.”

For more information, click here to visit the Creative Scotland website.

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

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

Posted on 1 March, 2023 by Nina Joynson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A photo of classroom desks and chairs lined up in rows, in an exam hall.

News: Research shows failures of Curriculum for Excellence, especially for pupils in high deprivation areas

Posted 21 February, 2023 by Nina Joynson

New research from the University of Stirling has found that current outcomes for pupils are contrary to the aims of Curriculum for Excellence

Researchers state that Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) has led to a "culture of perfomativity", due to continuous pressure on teachers to raise attainment levels. 

The study found that pupils now face a narrowed choice of subjects at assessment level, while performance and outcomes for higher education also highlight weaknesses in the curriculum.

Dr Marina Shapira, Associate Professor in Sociology and the project’s Principal Investigator, said: 

“The research reveals the pressure on teachers to raise attainment, which can lead to decision-making that is contrary to the purposes and principles of CfE.

This narrow focus on what is assessed for National Qualifications can be argued to be counter-educational, limiting young people’s opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills and attributes that are essential for successful transitions beyond school and for adult life.”

Studying the curriculum 

The research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, took place over three years and has been labelled as the most comprehensive study on Scottish secondary school curricular provision to date.

Researchers analysed data from the Scottish Government, and generated new data from surveys, interviews and focus groups involving school leaders, local authorities, teachers, young people and parents.


One of the original purposes of CfE was to broaden the secondary school curriculum.

This new evidence reveals that S4 students are studying fewer subjects now than before it was introduced, and enrolment in non-compulsory subjects such as Modern Languages and Expressive Arts continues to decline. 

Studying fewer National 5 subjects was associated with a lower pass rate on those qualifications, contrary to expectations that concentrating on fewer subjects would lead to higher achievement.

While curriculum narrowing was evidenced across all socio-demographic factors, students studying in areas of high deprivation were most adversely affected. 

The results suggest that pupils at schools with a more limited curriculum may have poorer choices of positive destinations, such as Higher Education after school.

Students in high deprivation areas were also more likely to postpone National 5 qualifications until S5, and Highers until S6 (rather than S4 and S5, respectively).

Click here to read the full report from the University of Stirling

Photo of the Riverside Museum with a blue sky in the background. The building's visible wall is entirely glass, with a jagged metal framework outline.
Riverside Museum, Glasgow

News: Pupils challenged to design new ways of tackling Clyde sea litter

Posted 27 September, 2022 by Nina Joynson. Image: Ronnie Macdonald, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

West of Scotland school pupils have been tasked with engineering new and innovative ways of reducing sea litter in and around the River Clyde.

The STEM the Flow campaign asks young people to tackle the issue of Source to Sea litter through an engineering-based design challenge. 

Open to pupils from Primary 6 to S3 in the eight local authorities that comprise the West Partnership, teams can choose to look at ways of collecting litter that is already in the Clyde, or ways of preventing it from entering waterways in the first place. 

Marine pollution

It's estimated that over 12.7 million tonnes of plastic is dumped in the sea annually, impacting our own food and air quality and threatening native habitats and killing wildlife. Sea litter also contributes to climate change, with greater production of greenhouse gases due to damaged ecosystems.

Led by Keep Scotland Beautiful, young people are encouraged to investigate the issue in their school grounds or local area and collect evidence to inform their solutions. 

The challenge is open from October 2022 until February 2023, when teams will be invited to showcase their projects at Glasgow’s Riverside Museum for a judging panel and the general public.

Industry insights

STEM the Flow is supported by Scottish Water, BAE Systems and Jacobs Engineering, who will lead workshops and provide professional advice to the young people as they work on their projects. 

Jaimie Cunningham, STEM Development Officer, Glasgow City Council, said:

“STEM the Flow is a fantastic opportunity for our pupils to apply their engineering and problem solving skills to real life problems. They get to interact and work with STEM professionals and gain an insight into hitherto unknown careers in industry – helping them see that their opportunities and options in STEM really are innumerable.”

The challenge is part of Keep Scotland Beautiful’s Upstream Battle initiative, which focuses on changing littering behaviours to reduce marine pollution. The initiative offers a catalogue of resources to build young people’s awareness of sea litter, with learning programmes for both educators and children. 

STEM the Flow is open to school pupils across East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow City, Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, South Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire.

Click here to learn more about STEM the Flow

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

News: Schools asked to change mental health approach, as stigma and issues rise

Posted 14 June, 2022 by Nina Joynson

A charity has launched new resources for secondary schools to help change perceptions of mental health.

The campaign See Me See Change, run by national mental health charity See Me, aims to transform how mental health is treated in schools by tackling widespread mental health stigma and discrimination.

Designed for a Whole School Approach, the free programme offers tools and training sessions for pupils and staff to identify issues in their school separately, before developing a plan for change together.

Declining mental health

The campaign launches just a week after Public Health Scotland released figures showing a 22.4% increase in treatment referrals for children with mental health issues between March 2021 and 2022.

While awareness of issues has increased, 69% of young people worry about being judged for their mental health, and only 39% of young people believe that teachers take them seriously when they talk about mental health. See Me hope to change both of these figures through the campaign and new resources.

Pilot programme

The approach has already been piloted by over 350 staff and pupils across the Borders, North Ayrshire, Glasgow and Argyll and Bute.

Co-leading the pilot in the nine Borders schools was Yvonne Wilson, health and wellbeing support officer for Scottish Borders Council. She said:

“As teachers, we are often the first point of contact for young people who are experiencing problems with their mental health, however, many staff do not feel they have the right knowledge and skills to offer the support required.

"The training from See Me has given staff the confidence to have those initial conversations.”

Wendy Halliday, Director of See Me, said:

“We want to see a culture shift in Scotland around mental health. This needs to start in schools so children and young people are having open conversations on this from an early age.

“We’ve seen some really impressive ideas and results coming from our pilot schools which I know are going to make a real difference for their pupils and staff.

“I would encourage any school to get involved in See Me See Change and make a positive difference for their young people.”

Click here to find out more about See Me See Change

A middle eastern woman is helping her son with his school work in their living room at home.

News: Report reveals ongoing lack of diversity in teaching profession

Posted 31 May, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

The second annual data report into diversity in the teaching profession has revealed that minority ethnic teachers remain significantly under-represented in Scottish schools.

Published in May, the Scottish Government report aims to gather and share data relating to the diversity of the teaching profession in order to inform and evaluate future work.

It notes a small increase in the number of ethnic minority teachers over time, highlighting an increase across the whole profession from 1.4% at the time of the original report, to the current 1.8% of the workforce.

The data also revealed:

  • a higher proportion of new teachers coming into the profession from minority ethnic backgrounds, compared to the overall teaching population. In 2021, 3.8% of secondary probationary teachers and 1.9% of primary probationary teachers came from ethnic minority backgrounds.
  • ethnic minority groups are more strongly represented in the secondary teaching sector (2.2% of the workforce) than in the primary sector (1.3% of the workforce).

The report acknowledges these as small increases across the teaching workforce against a backdrop of persistent under-representation of minority ethnic teachers in Scotland’s schools as a whole.

It also identified a lower proportion of ethnic minority probationers finding employment after their probationary year (16%) compared to the overall probationer population (23%).

Ambitious targets

The activity to monitor representation in schools is in direct response to the Teaching in a Diverse Scotland report published in 2018 by Professor Rowena Arshad CBE and the Diversity in the Teaching Profession Working Group.

At the time of the original report, 1.4% of the teaching workforce came from a minority ethnic background. The Scottish Government has committed to improving representation, accepting the recommendation that by 2030, the number of minority ethnic teachers in Scotland should be at least 4% to be commensurate with the Scottish minority ethnic population as reported in the 2011 census.

Committed to improvement

Responding to the latest data set, the Scottish Government has restated its commitment to improving representation, noting achievement of the targets set will require a “significant shift” from the current position.

The government has suggested in order to meet the original targets, approximately 8-10% of all new teachers will need to come from a minority ethnic group. This is a significant increase from the 3% of probationers from an ethnic minority background recorded in 2021.

A new subgroup, Diversity in the Teaching Profession and Education Workforce, will continue to focus on how to support, retain and promote existing minority ethnic staff as well as increase the number of trainees undertaking and completing Initial Teacher Education (ITE).

Click here to access the full report

A hand holding a pencil filling in an exam questionnaire on a light desk

News: SQA comes under fire for new revision materials

Posted 9 March 2022, by Nina Joynson

There are revived calls for the SQA to be replaced as the authority publishes new exam guidance that many call ‘patronising’ and ‘useless’.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has faced backlash over their new exam guidance, published this week. .

The materials, originally promised in February, were supposed to help students after their continued disruption to learning during the pandemic. However, they have been widely criticised as failing to meet the expectations of pupils, teachers, and politicians

The authority was first mocked on Monday evening when the materials were published a day early by accident. The SQA later issued an apology on Twitter.

Criticism over 'basic' advice

Most of the backlash, however, relates to the content of the resources. When officially published on Tuesday, many took to social media to describe them as giving basic and ‘useless’ advice, and being ‘patronising’ and ‘ridiculous’.

The materials have also been criticised for being unbalanced with some subjects receiving detailed guidance while others included information already well known to students.

Pupils preparing for their Higher Physics and Chemistry exams have been advised that “it’s always a good idea to spell words correctly” while those sitting Advanced Higher History have been told “remember to answer what the question is asking”.

A number of MSPs were vocal in their disapproval. Michael Marra, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, tweeted:

“I have submitted an Urgent Question today regarding the latest unacceptable shambles from the @SQANews

Pupils and teachers deserve answers from the Government and @S_A_Somerville must take responsibility.

Once more, the SQA shows contempt for those it is meant to serve.”

Post-pandemic support

Exams start next month for pupils studying National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications for the first time since 2019 when formal examinations were cancelled due to COVID-19.

The materials were released with a statement from chief executive Fiona Robertson, describing them as "part of the SQA's commitment to providing a substantial package of additional support" to reduce the pandemic's impact on students' education.

The aim of the resources was to narrow the gap in education over the last year, with students facing differing levels of disruption, and support, due to location, social inequalities and digital access.

Wider education reform

This latest SQA controversy has put the SNP under further pressure to replace the authority.

Last year, independent advisor Ken Muir was commissioned by the Scottish Government to undertake a review of Education Scotland and the SQA’s retirement, drawing on 800 consultation responses from organisations, groups and individuals and 4000 from children and young people.

The results of the review – including recommendations on the future of Scottish qualifications – are expected to be published on Thursday (10 March).

Why young children need Play Not Tests

Children in Scotland is supporting the new Upstart Scotland campaign, Play Not Tests, which launched yesterday.

As part of the campaign, Upstart has published a dossier calling for the Scottish Government to abandon formal testing in P1 and instead endorse “the play-based pedagogy outlined in the Curriculum for Excellence”.

Sue Palmer, Chair of Upstart Scotland and author of Toxic Childhood and Detoxing Childhood, said the data provided by testing children as young as five has “little or no statistical value”.

Children in Scotland supports the campaign calls. We have consistently been critical of the decision to implement standardised testing at the early stage of primary school.

Jackie Brock, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland, said:

“We’ve been cautious about the National Improvement Framework since it was announced, and have raised particular concerns about the standardised tests already taking place as early as P1.

“Testing children as young as four or five is not appropriate for their age or stage of development, and evidence suggests such high pressure can have a detrimental effect on wellbeing. While we understand the value of assessment for teaching and learning, we remain unconvinced it is necessary at such a young age.

“We are already hearing concerns from teachers that the approach is at best a distraction from learning and development and at worst a stressful waste of time for both teachers and pupils. Will there be an evaluation to see if this approach is delivering benefits that merit the investment of time and money involved?”, she asked.

Children in Scotland is amongst a range of organisations publicly supporting Upstart Scotland’s campaign.

Others who have spoken out include the EIS teaching union, charity Play Scotland and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland.


Upstart Scotland

Find out more about 'Play Not Tests' campaign on the Upstart Scotland website.

Visit the website

Government urged to solve 'P1 puzzle'

In September 2017 we published a comment piece on P1 assessments.

Read the article

Nursery to primary: easing transitions through play

On 1 June, Children in Scotland will host an event exploring how learning through play can be achieved.

Find out more