Jackie Brock believes the third sector can work with schools to boost confidence and resilience outside the classroom and attainment within it
Living in Portobello, or Edinburgh by the sea, is a joy. One reason is how lucky we are to have fabulous community resources. The most recent demonstration of this was on 27 October, when more than 1,300 local children moved into a brand new, state-of-the-art high school. It’s a comprehensive catchment reflecting the local population and this new building provides the learning environment these children and school staff deserve.
While attainment is absolutely critical, the path to improvement must include building children and young people’s confidence, resilience, skills and achievementsJackie Brock
A mile up the road is another fabulous school, Castlebrae. A school where more than 90% of the young people are in the highest level of deprivation, Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 1, and one fifth achieving Level 5 literacy and numeracy at 16. In addition, these young people are cut off from Portobello’s greatest resource – the sea. Getting there is expensive but having fun on a canoe, kayak or boat is prohibitive.
A group of volunteers in Portobello sailing club recognised this and has been working with S1 pupils at Castlebrae for the past year, taking them out on the water every week. The school is making its own skiff. What fantastic news then to hear that the recent award of attainment money to the school is to be used, in part, by the headteacher to give these Castlebrae young people the opportunity to develop their water skills and work with them on how their abilities and knowledge can be applied across the curriculum to support every curriculum area.
The £750m Attainment Scotland Fund is a targeted initiative focused on supporting pupils in the local authorities of Scotland with the highest concentrations of deprivation. It has recently been extended to up to 133 secondary schools across Scotland. Many of us have been concerned that the attainment fund, welcome though it is, will be used solely to support schools and classroom learning.
The Portobello-Castlebrae story and an increasing number of others we are hearing suggest that, on the contrary, this injection of funds is being used ambitiously, recognising that schools are community hubs and that the local community and third sector organisations can do so much more to help children, young people and schools eliminate the attainment gap. They also suggest that, while attainment is absolutely critical, the path to improvement must include building children and young people’s confidence, resilience, skills and achievements.
Making sure that this approach becomes systemic in every school is being brought into increasing focus by the Scottish Government’s Education Governance review. Thinking about the impact for the third sector begs a number of questions. What are the risks and opportunities for us? Do we feel comfortable with an approach where headteachers have a much more direct role in accessing third sector services? Many will answer, why not? Others will be concerned.
Might local commissioning become a defining factor in the relationship between third sector organisations and schools? What effect and impact will this have on relationships and the flexibility that defines many of the excellent partnerships we see at the moment? What about the role of small, voluntary groups? Ultimately, what changes do we need to see to support a strengthening of partnerships with schools to make sure we are all working to our utmost capacity to improve children’s lives?
The Scottish Government has asked us to convene a forum of third sector organisations to discuss these issues. We will be confirming details in mid-November.
There are undoubtedly exciting opportunities to be part of the national effort to eliminate the attainment gap but focused and practical ideas are needed on how we make the third sector contribution a lasting success. Children in Scotland looks forward to working with our diverse network of members, Scottish Government and partners to achieve this.
Jackie Brock is chief executive of Children in Scotland