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We need to close the attainment gap

This opinion piece is over 7 years old
 

​Angela Morgan says young people's personal development requires focused intervention beyond the classroom

It might seem strange to say, but to improve educational attainment we need to look beyond what goes on in school. The classroom will always be the focus of education, but the attainment gap, which has rightly become a political priority, will only be closed if we also look at all the other factors which influence a young person’s engagement with education.

I gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee this week, as part of an inquiry into how to close the attainment gap. My evidence focused on the principle that children learn when they are emotionally stable and when they have supportive relationships in their lives. A stable home life is critical to a young person’s personal development and our experience shows that only when this is in place will they be able to fully attend and engage in school and reach their full potential.

A stable home life is critical to a young person’s personal development

Includem provides intensive, community based support for some of Scotland’s most vulnerable and challenging young people and their families. We believe that no young person is ever beyond help and through a 24/7 service which is responsive to their needs, we work alongside young people and their families to change behaviour and relationships so they can move towards living more fulfilling lives.

Our work with schools is focused around several key elements including practical support to ensure school attendance such as reinforcing bed times and getting up routines, assessing both young people and parental support needs, proactive work to strengthen positive parenting and family relationships, and improve relationships with teachers and with schools, and focused work with young people to think about their relationships, managing their emotions and dealing with anger and frustration which are often the barriers to engagement with teachers and others at school.

All of this work is premised on the understand that no two young people are alike, and that one size fits all solutions do not work.

Focused intervention requires more resources in the classroom – particularly in areas of deprivation, but it cannot stop at the school gates. We need to focus on improving parent/child and child/school relationships and on identifying and, crucially, understanding the underlying causes of why the young person is not engaging.

Finally, these interventions need to happen early and at all stages to stop young people from becoming excluded from education in the first place.

Early years interventions have their place in this mix, but so too does a focus on supporting young people in the critical transition between primary and secondary and on working with those who have a sudden need for support at any stage in their lives.

No young person should be beyond the help they need so they can get the education they deserve.

Angela Morgan is chief executive of Includem

 

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