We need to talk about … failure


SEAS views the Scottish education system as generally a successful one when compared internationally and when looked at over the past 50 years or 25 years or 10 years.

However over the past ten years as Curriculum for Excellence has moved forward it is clear there has been failure in challenging the effects of poverty. These days, Scotland does not follow guidance from international best practice from either OECD or UN. The system is now starting to show evidence of increasing failure in meeting the needs of certain disadvantaged groups of young people in Scottish education.

The SNP has failed to ensure that their cuts to funding don’t land inequitably on deprived areas or the disabled or recent migrants. The cuts crisis leads to adjustments such as reducing the number of support for learning teachers in the classroom. Staff who nurture, support and spend quality time with those groups have been reduced year on year since 2007. Scottish education has failed in tackling inequalities and inequity. We are still stuck at the first panel of the Inequalities, Equality, Equity cartoon.

Scotland’s future will depend on investment in education to foster real inclusion and equity. Our resources need to be allocated towards more  equitable outcomes.  In addition, Scottish Government needs to be align housing and welfare to better support young people facing the impact of poverty.

Well-off families have more resources at their disposal such as private tutors to ameliorate the impact of reduced funding. The post-school options are more complex for learners from areas suffering the effects of deprivation. Within Curriculum for Excellence many schools have failed to match the certainty of motivation about school being preparation for university. Fewer working class students go to university and the enriched development of relevant curriculum has still not yet materialised.

More can be done to improve the educational experience for the most disadvantaged. Embedding equality education within the ethos of the curriculum will assist in making school more welcoming for groups disadvantaged by bullying such as the disabled, LGBTI and ethnic minorities all of whom report inhospitable and negative comments by other children and young people and staff.

Education Scotland has never yet addressed the overuse of rigid groupings in primary and inflexible setting in early stages of secondary. Any observation of such arrangements would support the growing body of research evidence that such forms of selection widens achievement gaps and inequities. Similarly the segregation of private schooling and segregation by special schools lead to inequitable outcomes too. Comprehensive schooling has been harmed by such inflexible processes both outwith and within the system.

While the over use of segregation grouping and setting limits equity in the Broad General Education, the move into Senior Phase leads to another set of failures. Getting the qualifications for going to university is a personalised pathway well-understood and valued by teachers and young people. The failure has been in lack of personalised pathways for those not going to Higher Education. Why can’t Government, schools and partners offer a well-understood personalised pathway for all students especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds whether due to socio-economic status, gender or disability? All in Scottish education need to focus on reducing such failure and give everyone the resources they need to be successful in looking beyond the barriers and fences they face.

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