Save Our Futures, All Means All

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In the last week of June, Gordon Brown spoke at the launch of the 2020 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report  which has the theme of Inclusion and Education.   In leading the launch with #AllMeansAll Gordon stated  “Never was the theme inclusion for all more important. We need a campaign to save our future built around this report.  We have to hold to the dream that in the next 10 years that every single child in the world has the chance of an education. We have to develop all of the potential of all of our children.”

Include all learners

The importance of inclusive education is shared by the SEAS and we continue to promote inclusive education across Scotland.  The GEM  Report includes its easy read version  as well as a series of short videos and cartoons.   You also have the chance to vote for your own personal choice of key message in a poll on the Report.  Last checked over a third of respondents selected the statement “Widen the understanding of inclusive education: it should include all learners, no matter their identity, background or ability”.

The Report is well worth reading.  It opens in its introduction with the challenging statement, particularly in the UK setting.

“It notes that debating the benefits of inclusive education can be seen as tantamount to debating the benefits of the abolition of slavery, or indeed of apartheid.”

In Scotland we have had three debates in the Scottish Parliament in the last three years. The debates about mainstreaming have tended not to be framed in terms of the abolition of slavery or the separate development aspects of apartheid!

Layers of exclusion

Emboldened and challenging statements do not just stop there.  Inclusive education is placed within the struggle to tackle all inequalities

“All over the world, discrimination is based on gender, remoteness, wealth, disability, ethnicity, language, migration, displacement, incarceration, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion and other beliefs and attitudes; the Covid-19 pandemic has added new layers of exclusion.”

The Report considers that funding for inclusion has been inadequate

“Equity and inclusion will not be achieved without adequate funding reaching schools and students according to need.” 

Challenges in bring about inclusive education

As UNESCO says the gem Report  highlights the challenges in bringing about inclusion, many of which still continue to apply to Scotland.

“These include differing understandings of the word inclusion, lack of teacher support, absence of data on those excluded from education, inappropriate infrastructure, persistence of parallel systems and special schools, lack of political will and community support, untargeted finance, uncoordinated governance, multiple but inconsistent laws, and policies that are not being followed through.”

Scottish Labour’s response

In the Scottish Labour Party’s Education draft policy paper some, but not all , of the themes from the GEM Report can be found. The Policy Forum on education proposes

“We see the need for our schools to work in collaboration with their community to achieve better outcomes for our children and contribute towards achieving a more socially just and inclusive society in Scotland.”; and

“We will require every school to publish an annual plan to improve inclusive practices so that no child misses out. The Scottish Government and each education authority should have an inclusion strategy in line with the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy.”  and in terms of an inclusive curricula

“We will ensure a zero-tolerance approach to violence, bullying and discrimination based on sexuality and gender in Scottish society. Labour supports the aims of the TIE campaign to develop LGBTI inclusive education in Scotland’s schools”

Scotland’s approach to LGBTI inclusive education within the curriculum is one of the few mentions of Scottish education within the GEM Report (p136). That lack of attention to Scotland and its self-proclaimed inclusiveness  should lead some to question just how inclusive we are as a nation in terms of equity and inclusion.

Embedding equality education in curriculum, textbooks and teaching

At the recent Scottish Labour Party #After The Lockdown event on 29th June the SEAS emphasised the importance of embedding equality education throughout the curriculum.  Barrington Reeves #BlackLivesMatter thought it essential that at the core  the curriculum we should be

“teaching about anti-racism.  I think that is something we need to actually teach to future generations… this country will only be stronger if we are all united and understand each other”

The GEM report devotes a chapter to curriculum, textbooks and assessment and their view of embedding equality education. This involves children and young people having an inclusive learning experience which requires an inclusive curriculum, textbooks and assessment practices. Barrington’s words were matched by the GEM report

“Curricula exclude when they do not cater to learners’ diverse needs and do not respect human and citizenship rights.”  

The GEM report considered three concepts in the curriculum chapter that places inclusion as an exercise in democracy.

First, there are political tensions regarding the kind of society people aspire to achieve through education, for inclusion is an exercise in democracy. Second, there are practical challenges in ensuring flexibility in order to serve diverse contexts and needs without segregating learners. Third, there are technical challenges in ensuring that the curriculum serves equity by being relevant and in creating bridges that do not cut off some learners.  

Call to Action

SEAS encourages you to read the Report and consider are we going to continue debating inclusion in Scotland or are going follow the report’s call to action

“Inclusion is not just a choice for policymakers. Imposed from above it will never work. So, the question you, as readers, are asked in the report is whether you are ready to challenge the current mindset and ready to decide that education is for everyone and must strive to be inclusive of all.” 

 

 

 

 

After the Lockdown: the future of our Schools

After the lockdown: the future of our Schools

Scottish Labour Party  and its series After the Lockdown moved on to education and held a Zoom session on The Future of our Schools.

The meeting was chaired by Richard Leonard MSP  and included

Iain Gray MSP (Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills)

Cllr Shamin Akhtar (Cabinet Spokesperson for Education & Children’s Services, East Lothian Council)

Kay Sillars (Unison)

Barrington Reeves (Black Lives Matter Scotland)

David Watt Socialist Educational Association Scotland) 

 

Enjoy! 

Rebuilding better for all

F21928F8-B938-4861-A9BF-3F6858D1FA18What next?

What are the opportunities coming out of COVID’s education crisis  to promote a more socialist agenda for Scottish education? Our what next answers.

  • Early years deschooled
  • Embed equality education throughout inclusive practices
  • End separate development
  • Localise, localise, localise
  • Education: framed in terms of social justice

 

Please do check out our blog and our Twitter feed @SocialistEdAS

After the Lockdown: what next?

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(Image from OECD reopening plans after lockdown)

We all had plans for 2020.

Yet from 30th January with the notice from the World Health Organisation of a public health emergency of international concern, plans were eliminated and our world changed. The planet entered a series of crisis. As the virus spread we experienced crisis in health, thousands dying; an economic crisis, millions furloughed.  A pandemic transmitted through processes of globalisation led to a globalised education crisis.

By end of April over 185 countries had closed schools; by start of May it was estimated that over 1.5 billion children and young people were out of school. In India alone over 1.5 million schools were closed.  With over 63 million primary and secondary teachers trying to ensure teaching and learning online, where ICT infrastructure and reliable internet connection exist, or through other ways, such as the radio, television texting and other means.

In Scotland, after 20th March, close to 1 million children and young people were not in schools or early learning centres.  National external exams were cancelled and arrangements made for awards based on teacher judgement followed by statistical adjustment.  Colleges and universities shut, quickly moving lectures and essays and exams online.  Hubs were set up for vulnerable or those at risk and the children of key workers.  Rapidly but in a piecemeal fashion learning moved from school and classroom to home and online.  Now, parents and carers always the first educators of children, were lockdowned into trying to offer schooling too.

Inequalities pre-COVID

From our perspective before discussing the effects and the new normal it is crucial to admit that pre-crisis, Scottish school education had long-standing structural and institutional inequalities, never fully engaged with.  Under COVID such inequalities are being amplified and will continue to get worse if we are only going to aim to get back to some form of pre-COVID normal!

The inequalities are in part underpinned by the view that in Scotland “it’s who you are” not which school you go to. The range of inequalities present include a lack of a positive strategy for schools in areas of greatest deprivation including declining attendance among children in greatest deprived areas. An educational system with endemic poorer outcomes for white working-class boys, care experienced youngsters.   Children and young people with disabilities segregated with their right to inclusive education opined by MSPs as laudable intentions.   That other form of separate development in education, the continued support of the state for private schools was extended.  Allowances were granted for private schools to continue to continue to employ unqualified teachers and their tax breaks were extended once more.  We oppose all state support for private schools.

Such structural inequalities play out in the curriculum too. We continue to over-value  the domination of the academic curriculum across our education system. At early years the curriculum needs to be deschooled, with teaching and learning continuing to move towards challenging and enjoyable learning rather than too overly formal schooling with rigid ability grouping, seating by rows.

Ideas reaffirmed

In the midst of crisis some socialist ideas about schools and education were reaffirmed while other processes were questioned.

Across the globe the effects of COVID reaffirmed that our schools operate as part of a state’s social services.  The example of early years of a wraparound service offering education, care and health was one mark of this. Learning hubs offered services to at risk children and children of key workers. Parents and carers value  their schools and teachers  to educate, look after and care for their children too.

Schools are about people and relationships and not just for knowledge transmission or exam factories. Everyone missed (to some degree) the sets of relationships occurring in schools even more so than the work of the classroom.

Health and wellbeing is the responsibility of all.  Our schools are to provide an environment where children (and staff too!)  make progress in their social and emotional wellbeing.   We all feel that children and young people shouldn’t be asked to socially isolate. All the recent brain research has us as social learners. We learn best together.  On returning to schools they will be placing Maslow before Bloom, even if just in terms of appropriate distancing and respect for social space. .

When schools return not all children will return straight away and not all will want to be there again.  We may well face more children less engaged with the ideas of school education – an additional COVID-cohort.

It seemed during the lockdown that some teachers were discovering that there is something called blended learning. Online learning has its place but it can only be is only supplementary.  During COVID the best practice internationally was through the use of multi-platforms – TV, radio, mobile, Whatsapp, online. Thus minimising any digital divide. For the future we need to move beyond a narrow awareness of blended learning to an understanding of the universal design approach to teaching and learning across all media – word, text, screen.

What next?

What are the opportunities coming out of COVID’s education crisis  to promote a more socialist agenda for Scottish education? Our what next answers.

  • Early years deschooled
  • Embed equality education throughout inclusive practices
  • End separate development
  • Localise, localise, localise
  • Education: framed in terms of social justice

Early years deschooled

The SEAS sees the need for the Scottish Labour Party to develop a comprehensive wraparound model of education, care and health from early childhood. Such services should be flexible, accessible, affordable and responsive to community needs with all year round provision and ensure that all children and family services support parents and carers where appropriate in identifying children’s needs and providing them with timeous and appropriate support.  We want more investment and quality teaching and learning in nurseries and early learning centres in disadvantaged areas

It would be better than too-early and too-formal approaches of schooling. (Children in rows, rigid groupings, strict timetables). The SEAS proposes greater flexibility in starting ages evaluated as part of a Curriculum for Excellence review. We need to make schools more ready for children not get children ready for schooling.

Embed equality education throughout inclusive practices

SEAS is supportive of reviewing Curriculum for Excellence to secure continued improvement in a curriculum that is focused on children and young people.  Curriculum for Excellence should seek to embed global citizenship education as well as equality education.  Diversity needs to be valued as part of an inclusive curriculum.  SEAS sees the need extensively develop equality education throughout Curriculum for Excellence. There have been only a few developments here with some LGBTI curricular inserts, some work in gender stereotyping regarding STEM subjects and a nod towards considering Scotland’s history regarding slavery and colonisation.  More can be done by considering all aspects of equality and engaging with decolonisation of the curriculum.  SNP have failed to take forward the embedding of equality education in the curriculum. It is even unlikely to feature in the OECD review.

At the later stages of secondary more needs to be done to broaden senior phase, by continuing to develop technical and vocational aspects for all in a way that values a wider range of learning beyond the exam factory. Such an approach complements building capacity in communities on a shared education agenda.

End separate development

As well the curriculum being more inclusive of difference our schools need to be accessible to all. Inclusive education has never yet been planned for resourced to ensure children’s rights to inclusive education are delivered.  SEAS calls for repeal of Section 15 of 2000 Act and instead legislation brought to ensure those with disabilities and other differences are successfully included. Such an approach needs to be planned for and resourced nationally, locally, in communities and across schools and classrooms.  Special schools and centres should be redesigned to support placements in inclusive schools.

SEAS welcomes Scottish Labour Party’s policy on ending all support and subsidy direct and indirect to private schools.

Localise, localise, localise

Finally the contribution of the SNP centralising policies such as the International Council of Education Advisers and Regional Improvement Collaboratives has been at very best close to zero. Our support staff, teachers, schools and councils delivered during lockdown. It would be a quiet night if people were asked to clap for the international advisers!

Education needs to rebalanced towards councils, schools and communities – all forms of collaboration should be led at more localised levels.  Building capacity at a local level will mean more tailored curriculum in schools formed locally with community participation. And why not end high stakes externally imposed inspections and ask a community to co-investigate, evaluate and improve their schools. Something proposed by Paolo Freire back in the day.

Councils and local communities including schools and broadly in terms of education should held more accountable for social justice outcomes. Accountability can be framed in terms of social justice and schools co-evaluate provision with council, community and schools teachers and pupils. End high stakes inspections.

Education: framed in terms of social justice

In short we see schools as places and agents of social change; as part of education as a socialised service, a more localised service which has a global outlook but community-based framed in terms of social justice and seeking to build more inclusive communities and society in Scotland.

After the Lockdown: The Future of Our Schools

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Join in the discussion on Monday 29th June at 6pm on the education crisis in Scottish education. Speakers include Richard Leonard and Iain Gray. Hear  a great panel discuss  the impact of COVID in Scottish schools and the mismanagement by the SNP before and during the pandemic. Views also about how we  don’t just aim for a new normal but build back better given the stagnation in education under SNP.

Sign up here https://t.co/G5zQvgBv6z?amp=1

 

 

SEAS warned in March 2019, SNP wriggling out of legislation to end tax relief for private schools?

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SEAS was quoted in the national media about the SNP stepping back from ending charitable status of private schools. So while they get tax relief the private sector will also be getting further taxpayers’ support in this time of COVID crisis. In March 2019, at Scottish Labour ‘s national conference Bill Butler, SEAS convenor (see excerpt from Bill’s speech above), warned that SNP may well wriggle out of this scheme. We need to ensure this delay isn’t another attempt to kick the can down the road!

A New Normal

Niamh DonaldWhen will we get back to normal?  A question asked as we face the global pandemic and its unfolding nightmares.  Across our public sector and other key services, the value of essential workers has been celebrated by weekly clapping and for some a true understanding of their worth.

In education the essential elements have been highlighted in the response of governments across the globe.  UNESCO considered the need for facts and emphasised “what is really important at the time of an existential crisis, are qualities of our human connections. Things like solidarity, empathy, and kindness.”

The OECD collated actions from 330 responses across 98 education jurisdictions among its members. They added the views of unexpected positive educational results from the responses.  The top five positives were

  • Introduction of technologies and other innovative solutions
  • Increased autonomy of students to manage their own learning
  • Strengthened involvement and cooperation of parents
  • Improvement in multi-sectorial coordination (Education-health etc)
  • Increased pedagogical autonomy of teachers

For the SEAS these unexpected positives may well be clues to a new normal.  As we have seen schools become centres for ensuring the wellbeing of children of essential workers and then finding new ways to promote learning at home.

In the journal of the British Educational Researcher Association researchers have proposed that five educational myths shattered by the virus. These elements of the old normal include

  • Teacher and leader efficacy can provide the solutions to children’s academic failure
  • School leaders matter more than teachers and support staff
  • Schools and those who work in them must be continuously surveilled
  • Transferring power from the local authority towards autonomous “leaders” makes a positive difference to children’s learning
  • Education ought to be understood structured and delivered around the interests of the individual

So, what might a new normal look like in Scotland. It would seem to mean significant changes to Scottish Government approaches.  Moves towards local solutions are a key feature of responses within education to COVID-19.  Scottish Government and Education Scotland did not go to Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RIC) to deliver what was necessary in times of crisis.  Of course, neither did they convene their panel of international advisers.

“Education Scotland has changed how it is working to provide tailored support to local authorities, schools, children and young people in response to the closure of schools during the Covid-19 pandemic. This collective approach, drawing on the wide-ranging skills and expertise available in the agency, allows Education Scotland to provide national advice and support. This will have greatest effect when done in close partnership with schools and local authorities.”

Support for a local response is best.  Something that is being taken forward with a much more grounded approach through the potential of Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland.   The new normal needs to see concerted action across council services at community level with a focus on the achievement of children.  Such approaches need to have a focus on promoting social justice rather than the faltering one-dimensional attainment gap approach.

The SEAS sees the need for this model of local collective action rather than the siloed RICs.  All of those agencies working for children and young people in collaboration can deliver more than the sum of their parts.  Schools have their place as shared social spaces for children and their friends beyond what online learning offers.

The nature of learning may well move away from schools being exam factories and teachers working to push young people through the high-stakes hurdle of external examinations. In our view the advice from the SQA for assessment, moderation and quality assurance is a starting point for the teachers and students to engage in dialogue and feedback about assessment of their work.  Implicit in this approach is a high degree of trust in the teaching profession to deliver fair, reliable assessments of the young people they work with.  In our view the relationship between teacher and learner may continue to change towards a partnership of equals in achieving effective teaching learning rather than continuing to exacerbate the mental well-being of both through the pressurised timetable of high-stakes external examinations.

And what about the classroom, the lecture hall, the school or schooling? Online learning will be a common mode across Higher, Further and school education over the next months/terms/years. What will a new normal look like then? Might it be a Senior Phase with fewer lessons in the school building? A greater sense of teacher responsibility for resources with a similar level of student responsibility for their learning and its assessment?

The upcoming review of Curriculum for Excellence will have the opportunity to consider necessary improvements to the curriculum.  Is it a chance to rename it – A Curriculum for the New Normal?

Sources

BERA five education myths that COVID-19 shatters https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/five-education-myths-that-covid-19-shatters

Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland https://childrensneighbourhoods.scot

OECD A frame work to guide an education response to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020   https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/view/?ref=126_126988-t63lxosohs&title=A-framework-to-guide-an-education-response-to-the-Covid-19-Pandemic-of-2020

Scottish Government Coronavirus (COVID-19): supporting pupils, parents and teachers – learning during term 4

https://www.gov.scot/publications/supporting-pupils-parents-teachers-learning-during-term-4/pages/introduction/

SQA National Courses – Delivering Results in 2020

https://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/93920.html

UNESCO https://en.unesco.org/news/interview-azra-aksamija-what-matters-most-time-crisis-are-qualities-our-human-connections

https://en.unesco.org/covid19/communicationinformationresponse/visualresources

 

 

SEAS contribution to Labour’s Scottish Policy Forum

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SEAS has been taking part in the Education Commission of the Scottish Labour Party’s Policy Forum as a volunteer member.  We recently submitted additional comment about the vision for our education service end comments on early learning and schools.  Our submission is reproduced below.

Socialist Educational Association Scotland is the only educational affiliate of the Scottish Labour Party.   In the past two years SEAS has been particularly active across the Labour Party.  We have proposed motions at Scottish Party conference.  We have met with MSPs, councillors and CLPs to discuss key issues in Scottish education.

We have successfully proposed two motions to Scottish conference.  In 2018 we proposed a contemporary motion on early learning and child care. In 2019 we proposed ending all state subsidies and support for private schooling. In 2019 motion 16 from East Lothian to end standardised national assessments at P1 was agreed by conference.  SEAS would like to see the terms of the Conference policy-making influence and feature prominently in the work of the Education Policy Forum.

Our vision and values

 We endorse the statement of our vision and values as “lifelong learning towards an inclusive society based on values of social justice and common decency”. SEAS believes that only the Scottish Labour Party aspires for social justice through education. 

Early learning and childcare

 We support party policy as set out in the contemporary motion agreed by conference in 2019 on early learning and child care  and the motion 15 in 2019 from East Lothian CLP on ending standardising testing in P1.  We support reviewing all of Curriculum for Excellence including early years to promote and ensure learning that is challenging and enjoyable, relevant and personalised. We do not support a discrete and distinctive Kindergarten stage. The OECD (2018) places a great importance on curriculum alignment to avoid the problem of piecemeal change.

The SEAS sees the need for the Scottish Labour Party to develop a comprehensive wraparound model of education, care and health from early childhood. Such services should be flexible, accessible, affordable and responsive to community needs with all year round provision and ensure that all children and family services support parents and carers where appropriate in identifying children’s needs and providing them with timeous and appropriate support.

Within such care and learning services we need more flexibility across the starting ages for children with the opportunity for the delay and deferring when schooling starts. In addition we need to shift from schooling to better quality learning. The evidence now from research and neuroscience shows that children develop best through challenging, enjoyable learning. An emphasis on play at the early years is crucial.   We can look to invest more in Early Years.  Furthermore we should be targeting resources towards communities facing challenges of poverty and deprivation. All nurseries and early years centres  in disadvantaged areas should be led by qualified headteachers. A child’s foundation years in early learning and care settings are crucial to future successes.

In Scotland we start with advantages in early years learning due to Curriculum for Excellence. Curriculum for Excellence provides curriculum continuity with its shared set of experiences and outcomes 3-7 years. Many children will benefit from a flexible school start.   It would be better than too-early and too-formal approaches of schooling. (Children in rows, rigid groupings, strict timetables). The SEAS proposes greater flexibility in starting ages evaluated as part of a Curriculum for Excellence review. We need to make schools more ready for children not get children ready for schooling.

Policy proposals

  • Review Curriculum for Excellence to secure more play-based learning in early years.
  • Offer flexibility in starting ages
  • Invest in nurseries and early learning centres in disadvantaged areas

Schools

SEAS is supportive of reviewing Curriculum for Excellence to secure continued improvement in a curriculum that is focused on children and young people.

Similar to early years all learning across 3-18 should be challenging and enjoyable, relevant and personalised.  All children are entitled to a broad general education and a personalised Senior Phase.  Schools can be encouraged to offer a broader set of options in partnership with communities, businesses to deliver a broader extended senior phase.

Curriculum for Excellence should seek to embed education for sustainability as well as equality education.  Diversity needs to be valued as part of an inclusive curriculum.

Our schools need to be more inclusive too. Inclusive education has never yet been planned for resourced to ensure children’s rights to inclusive education are delivered. SEAS calls for repeal of Section 15 of 2000 Act and instead legislation brought to ensure those with disabilities and other differences are successfully included.  Such an approach needs to be planned for and resourced nationally, locally, in communities and across schools and classrooms.  Scotland can aspire to be world leading inclusive education.  Staff and resources in special schools can be shared and provide valuable support to inclusive education.  Special schools and centres should be redesigned to support placements in inclusive schools.

SEAS welcomes Scottish Labour Party’s policy on ending all support and subsidy direct and indirect to private schools. All private schools work in a supportive partnership with Education Scotland and every private school gets support from a linked HMI.  Private schools also receive supportive quality improvement visits rather than inspection report.

The SEAS is unconvinced by the mixed results from Scottish Attainment Fund.  SEAS is concerned at the fall in attendance in schools receiving additional money direct from Scottish Government. We oppose this centralised funding and call for distribution of resources to local councils. We would end the bureaucratic Regional Improvement Collaboratives.   Councils need to offer greater autonomy to schools and for them to be accountable for delivering a social justice agenda in education. They can  improve outcomes in disadvantage area, meeting the needs of disabled children and offering inclusive approaches for LGBTI young people too.

Policy proposals

  • Review Curriculum for Excellence
  • Broaden Senior Phase
  • Plan for and resource inclusive education
  • Embed equality education
  • End all state subsidy and indirect and direct support for private schools
  • Councils and local communities more accountable for social justice outcomes.