The SEAS sees Scottish education has being improved through greater resourcing and support for inclusive education in its broadest sense. Inclusive education would have three underpinning themes: equalities, diversity and equity with a coherent overarching strategy of reducing the impact of poverty.
Labour’s Equality Act 2010 aimed to eradicate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations. This is even more important now given the rise in fear, hatred and bigotry evidenced lately. This attention to equalities is missing from Curriculum for Excellence. In the view of the SEAS inclusivity should be part of the content in classrooms from an early stage to challenge stereotypes and narrow thinking. The SEAS thinks schools should consider equalities issues across protected characteristics such as gender, disabilities, race, sexual orientation to a greater extent in content and relationships in schools.
For instance, the Scottish Labour manifesto backed the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign, which aims to combat homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in our education system. To tackle bullying of LGBTI young people, Labour should ensure that all teachers receive initial and ongoing training on the issues students face and how to address them. The SEAS supports the idea that new guidance for relationships and sex education is LGBTI inclusive as well as other equality areas. The SNP have neglected to promote fully initiatives to fully “embed equality education within Curriculum for Excellence”. The SEAS would want to see greater attention to equality education as part of global citizenship rather than Tory PREVENT policies implemented in Scotland.
In Scottish education diversity and identity are important determinants of success. The OECD study of Scottish education in 2007 noted that in Scotland
“Who you are in Scotland is far more important than what school you attend, so far as achievement differences on international tests are concerned. Socio-economic status is the most important difference between individuals.” (OECD 2007)
Responding to “Who you are” means embedding equality education in the curriculum and also linking such approaches to ensuring that children’s learning experiences are personalised.
The OECD identified ‘within’ school factors as being crucial to tackling inequalities. Their examples of this focused on policies that played themselves out in classrooms in Scotland. They included curriculum and examinations, teacher values and expectations, teaching style, pupil grouping practices (e.g. setting) and resource allocation practices (which students are allocated to which teachers).
For Scotland, the impact of these factors on learners’ chances mean that:
- there was a relatively high proportion of young people not in education, employment or training
- flat staying on rates in secondary schools (often young people are encouraged to leave due to the potential negative impact on a school’s performance)
- differences in success rates in national qualifications
- limited growth in transition to further education and social inequalities in higher education
Over the past ten years since that OECD report these issues have not been taken forward as a priority while the SNP have been in control of the Scottish education.
Equity will mean monitoring outcomes in terms of diversity and equalities. Such approaches would raise questions at national, local, school and classroom level as to how as to how to improve outcomes for our diverse population of children and young people. Nationally we are not making sufficient use of smart enough data to consider strengths in the system. For instance Glasgow City Council has made tremendous progress with the attainment of young people from the most deprived 20%. Surely, there is something to learn from this nationally or do we just ignore such successes?
Quality inclusive education is not yet fully successful in Scotland. Working-class children and those with additional support needs do not do as well as they should in our schools. The SEAS sees the need to deliver a strategy for children with additional support needs including those disabilities based on inclusivity, and embed inclusion and approaches to disabilities more substantially into training for teachers and non-teaching staff, so that staff children and their parents are fully supported. The SEAS believes every child is entitled to the personal support that will enable them to succeed. We support a new role for specialist services and schools to improve education for children with additional support needs arising from autism or mental wellbeing. We view the role of the education authority as vital in this area to provide coherent services to meet every child’s needs.
Schools should be better supported with support teachers and assistants to meet the needs of all. The United Nations Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities places inclusive education as a key factor in Article 24. UNESCO has sustainable development goal 4 as ensuring quality inclusive education and life long learning for all as a global target. Why not in Scotland?
To measure our progress with equalities, inclusion and equity we need smart data linking diversity to equity and the use of information and data in schools that take account of who you are. Over the last few years the SNP have dismissed effective data sources internationally and corrupted their own datasets thus preventing comparison. Hardly surprising given their poor performance and lack of commitment to effective support for all.
Finally the SEAS recognises that poverty is based around social class. Education for all, not just the few needs an effective strategy to combat poverty’s effects and impact. One in three of Scotland’s children still live in poverty.
A future Scottish Labour Government should ensure that there is a national strategy to address poverty. The Government in Wales developed a Child Poverty Strategy which involved all services to children, families and communities in auditing services and ensuring that all policies take account of and develop policies which alleviate poverty. In 2015 this strategy was updated. However an earlier toolkit was helpful in developing a draft strategy in Glasgow in 2009. It will take the involvement of all services to develop and implement a strategy that has a positive impact. Education cannot do it alone. However, it is important that education services involve themselves in the development of a local strategy.
Schools need to understand poverty and the impact of poverty on the living conditions and life chances of children and young people. Sadly, Glasgow still has the greatest number of children in poverty in Scotland with the resultant impact on attainment and achievement. The importance of engaging with employers needs to be more fully recognised and to integrate action on poverty with economic strategy with the caveat that some of the levers remain with UK and Scottish government.
As well as having a comprehensive Early Childhood education and care strategy, there are other factors which should be considered as part of a Child Poverty strategy: food poverty; narrowing the attainment gap; increasing opportunities for adult education and training; “real” positive destinations for school leavers. Reducing the power of education authorities and their effectiveness as a set of council departments working together is an act of vandalism that will not lead to an effective fight against poverty. The SNP and their Tory bedfellows demonstrate little interest in a coherent fight against the impact of poverty.
The Socialist Educational Association in Scotland sees every child is unique. We are seeking a Scottish Labour-led education system that will enable each child and young person to find and be offered a personalised learning path and support through a wider choice of courses and qualifications. In Scotland the SEAS support greater investment in supportive measures to close the attainment gap between children from different backgrounds based on approaches steeped in equality and inclusion and resulting in more equitable outcomes.