Author Archives: Engage for Education

National Adoption Week 2015⤴

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We know that having a secure, stable and supportive home is vital to a child’s well-being. For the small, but important number of children who can no longer live at home, adoptive families across Scotland provide the love and security that all children deserve. Where adoption is the right solution for children, we need it to happen as quickly and as effectively as possible.

The Adoption Register has a key part to play here, increasing the number of opportunities for children to be matched with potential families from across Scotland, rather than restricting options to a specific local authority area.  Since its establishment in April 2011, I am pleased the Register has now made 224 matches and I look forward to those numbers increasing further.

Through the Children and Young People Act 2014, the Scottish Government has put Scotland’s Adoption Register on a statutory basis. By requiring all local authorities to use the Register within defined timescales, we can further reduce the delays in children being matched with adoptive families and finding permanent homes.

Following a public consultation which closed on 22 July, we are currently developing the regulations which will lay out how Scotland’s Adoption Register will work in detail. I expect these to come into force in April 2016.

In addition, the Register is continuing to expand its activities, including running national adoption exchange days where prospective adopters have an opportunity to learn more about children who are waiting to be adopted.  The Register also held Scotland’s first adoption activity day on 3 October, where adopters met a range of children waiting to be adopted in a prepared, supported, safe and fun environment.  I look forward to hearing about the success of this kind of innovative approach in due course. It is obviously vital that there are effective services in place with knowledgeable, confident professionals who can support children into appropriate, alternative care placements.

Funding has therefore been made available to Adoption and Fostering Alliance Scotland (AFAS) to provide training, consultancy and a helpline for the public and professionals following the unfortunate collapse of the British Association for Adoption (BAAF) in July.  We have also protected the majority of BAAF Scotland jobs with staff transferring to AFAS so that Scotland does not lose their knowledge and expertise.

There is more to do to ensure that all our children grow up free from the risk of harm and abuse and in safe environments. Over the coming months, this Government will be making a series of announcements aimed at ensuring more vulnerable children get a better start in life.

National Adoption Week provides an important opportunity to raise awareness of the benefits that come with adoption, not only in improving the life chances of children, but also for adoptive parents themselves. I would urge anyone who has ever wondered whether they and their family could provide a loving, secure, permanent home for a child, to contact their local adoption agency to find out more.

Aileen Campbell, Minister for Children and Young People.

 

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Consultation on a cyber resilient Scotland now live⤴

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kyleacademy

Scottish Government is working with partners to develop a cyber resilience strategy and has launched a consultation to gather views from the public that will inform the strategy’s development. Ideas and comment from educators, young people and parents on how education and skills can play a crucial role in ensuring Scotland’s people and businesses operate and prosper safely online are especially welcome. You can find the consultation online at http://tinyurl.com/CyberConsultation

There are already many excellent examples of how education can lead the way in cyber resilience like Kyle Academy in South Ayrshire which has worked with Police Scotland’s Head of Cyber Security to develop a 12-week Cyber Security Badge programme. As part of the programme, pupils in S1 learn about everything from the importance of secure passwords to the dangers of cyber bullying and online grooming. The students then have to work with their parents and grandparents to “audit” the security of electronic devices in their homes. The programme has been a great success and is now embedded in Kyle Academy’s curriculum.

Launching the consultation, the Deputy First Minister, Mr John Swinney, said:

“The internet is part of all of our lives. We use it to stay connected with friends and family, for information, enjoyment and play. It offers incredible opportunities for Scottish businesses. But no one is immune to cyber risks. Being  digitally connected brings increased opportunities for those who seek to exploit the very same technology for criminal purposes such as threats of fraud and abuse. In using the internet in our everyday lives we must accept this is now the norm and we all must become more resilient to such attacks and build our capacity to manage this as we do other more visible risks.

This consultation seeks to gather your views on how we can become more resilient online; how we can be more alert to online risk and know how we can quickly recover from any cyber-attack.”

To find out more about the strategy and to the respond to the consultation, go to http://tinyurl.com/CyberConsultation

 

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Children and Young People’s Regional Summit- #wish4scotland⤴

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The first in a series of Children and Young People’s Regional Summit events centred on an education theme will be taking place on March 23rd in Inverness. The event is a collaboration between Scottish Government, Children in Scotland, Young Scot and the Scottish Youth Parliament.

Scottish Government wants to help ensure children and young people are at the heart of decisions which affect them and their education. As set out in Curriculum for Excellence,  young people should have the confidence and skills to enable them to influence decisions around them, effectively participate in wider civic society and help shape the future Scotland.

Approximately 100 children and 40 supporting adults from schools and youth organisations across the north of Scotland will be coming along to the first regional summit which has been coordinated along with an official Cabinet meeting. Bringing the Cabinet meeting together with the Children and Young People’s Summit will give Government Ministers the opportunity to engage directly with children and young people to talk about their views on things like educational attainment, participation, children’s rights and social justice.

 

Follow the event and participate on Twitter using #wish4scotland 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrating World Social Work Day⤴

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Guest blog by Fiona McLeod, Minister for Children & Young People

 Today is World Social Work Day which gives us an opportunity to recognise the vital role social workers and their colleagues in wider social services play in our society. I’m pleased to be marking the day by taking part in two events which recognise the unique contribution and commitment that the social services sector makes to supporting people and strengthening our communities.

Working in social services is life-changing work and one of the most demanding tasks that the public ask professionals to do on our behalf. Collectively, what the sector delivers goes to the core of what it means to be a civilised and socially just society. With around 190,000 people, it is the largest public service workforce in Scotland. It is also a complex sector with organisations covering the private, third and public sectors.

Yet despite the scale and diversity of the services, what I have found is a sector unified by a strong set of shared values and ethics which underpins the care and support provided to vulnerable children and adults, their families and carers. I am delighted to be launching a new Vision and Strategy for Social Services in Scotland today. The strategy has been developed by the Social Work Services Strategic Forum which I chair, and whose membership includes Social Work Scotland, the Scottish Social Services Council, Cosla, the Care Inspectorate, the Coalition of Care Providers Scotland, Scottish Care, Scottish Association of Social Workers (SASW), SOLACE, UNISON, Social Work academics and the Scottish Government.

The vision is for “a socially just Scotland with excellent social services delivered by a skilled and valued workforce which works with others to empower, support and protect people, with a focus on prevention, early intervention and enablement.” The strategy represents a strong commitment to working in partnership across organisations and with government to deliver this vision for high quality and effective social services. It is also supportive of the Government policy on having in place a social services workforce which is competent, confident and valued.

Through my involvement in the forum, I have been particularly impressed by the real partnership, consensus and commitment demonstrated by all the partners in working together to develop and progress this shared vision and strategy.

Appreciating the role and value of social services is hugely important and I look forward to the second event I’ll be attending today which will do this – the Annual SASW Social Work Awards. This will be a great opportunity to highlight the dedication of those involved in social work. The nominees and winners have all been recognised for the excellent and valuable work they do on a daily basis.

So to all those that work within social services across Scotland, I wish you a happy World Social Work Day and thank you for your continued hard work and dedication.

 

 

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Celebrating World Book Day⤴

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This is books scramble. Many books on white background.

 

Guest post by Fiona McLeod, Acting Minister for Children and Young People

World Book Day is a great opportunity to celebrate the joy of reading.

In November we also hold our own Book Week Scotland, a national week-long celebration of reading led by the Scottish Book Trust and supported by our national arts development body Creative Scotland. Of course, every day is a good day to pick up a book, but these annual events are a great time to renew or even start a love-affair with reading.

As a former librarian, books have always been a hugely significant part of my life.  I am constantly amazed at the power of an idea and where it can lead in any creative endeavour – but also the importance of reading and the impact that books can have upon us in so many different situations during our lives.

I was struck by this most recently when I heard first-hand from parents about Elke Barbour’s books on child bereavement and how these had helped them and their children through such a distressing time.  The value of books clearly go beyond just reading for pleasure, helping people make sense of tragedy and loss.

When I was wee I was a voracious reader and well remember sneaking a torch up to bed so I could read under the covers.  For my friends, the stories we read didn’t just stay in between the covers of the books, we loved playing the parts and developing the stories- being bossy I was always George from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five!

I loved reading Mairi Heddiwicke’s Katie Morag books to my son and my bookshelves are still full of these books to this day.  In my current role in government, I’m clear about the importance of encouraging a love of reading from children’s earliest years.

As well as laying the foundations of early literacy, early book-sharing between wee ones and their parents is critical for helping to develop nurturing and loving relationships. That’s why the Scottish Government provides funding to the Scottish Book Trust for the Bookbug gifting scheme that sees every child in Scotland – from birth to primary one – receive a pack of free books and goodies.

I was delighted to attend the reception for the Scottish Children’s Book Awards last night, and to meet some of the authors whose books had been selected and voted for by around 28,000 young people across Scotland. The Awards, as well as the Bookbug initiative and our PlayTalkRead campaign, help us to help parents create a supportive, loving environment for the development of early literacy skills.

For mums and dads who are thinking about how to get the best out of books for their little ones, PlayTalkRead provides several ideas, including 30 things to do with reading and top books for little ones.

Of course, we know that reading for pleasure leads to improved educational attainment, regardless of background. There is a strong relationship between reading for pleasure and achievement.

The First Minister and the Cabinet Secretary for Education have made clear that raising attainment and closing the gap in educational outcomes between the most and least advantaged children is a key priority for the Scottish Government.  We all have a role to play in ensuring our children can achieve their very best and for our part, we will introduce a new literacy and numeracy campaign in early primary school. Building on the success of PlayTalkRead and Bookbug in the early years, Read, Write, Count will seek to ensure the best possible start to school for all our children, particularly those living in disadvantaged circumstances.

We will also work hard to connect with parents and carers so that they feel equipped to support their children’s learning, particularly those who may have had negative experiences of education themselves.

Read, Write, Count will launch formally in August this year, with various events earmarked in the lead up to this to help raise awareness of the campaign and its aims.  So, watch this space!

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Want to become a teacher? Find out how with Teach in Scotland⤴

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Want become a teacher but not sure where to start? Well you’re in luck- a new website called Teach in Scotland tells you everything you need to know about getting into the teaching profession including guidance and case studies. With over £2 million of government funding available this financial year to create more teacher training spaces, the time is ripe for looking into how you can start the journey.

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Find out if you have what it takes, what qualifications you need and hear from teachers about their own training experiences at teachinscotland.org

 

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Free school meals expansion- a boost for low income families⤴

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In early 2014, Scottish Government announced that by January 2015, all children in Primary 1, 2 and 3 in Scotland will be entitled to a healthy and free school lunch and with a commitment of £55 million- £13 million in 2014-2015 and £42 million in 2015-2016- to help this policy become reality. Local authorities will begin rolling out their free school meals programmes from January 5th, 2015. In this blog post we hear from John Dickie, Director of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland about how important the expansion of free school meals will be to families living in poverty.

 

John Dickie, Director of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland

John Dickie, Director of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The introduction of free school meals for all pupils in Scotland’s P1 to P3 classes is a great boost for children and families at a time when household budgets are under huge pressure, but with increasing numbers of children being pushed into poverty, it is particularly welcome for those on low incomes.

When means tested free school meals are already available some people will inevitably question this important investment in our children. But the reality is that too many children living in poverty currently don’t get a free school meal – either because their parents are earning just over the means test threshold or they don’t take up their entitlement due to stigma, bureaucracy or peer pressures. Parents are left struggling to meet the extra costs of lunches as they move back into work or increase their hours when their children start school. Providing a healthy free school lunch to all pupils, as will now be the case for children in those crucial early years of primary, is the most effective way of ensuring children all our children, including the majority of poor children who live in working families, get a healthy meal in the middle of the school day.

The new approach will not just put money back into the pockets of hard pressed parents (up to £19 a week for a family with two children in the first three years of school), it will ensure all our children get the educational and health benefits of a nutritious lunch in the middle of the school day. Pilot schemes have shown that a universal approach not only increases take up of healthy lunches overall , it increases take-up amongst children already entitled – by up to 8.5 percentage points, and impacts ‘positively on the home environment of pupils’.

Perhaps most importantly, the universal approach improves children’s learning experience. With the attainment gap between better off children and their more disadvantaged peers remaining stubbornly wide the educational benefits of a universal approach to healthy school meals on educational outcomes are clear. Evaluation of a free school meals pilot for primary school children in Hull found a “significant impact in all areas of children’s schooling…behaviour, social relationships, health and learning” whilst more recent evaluation of the provision of free school meals to all primary pupils in Durham and Newham found that it was only by offering free school meals to all pupils that attainment levels were increased.

That all children in the early years of primary school will now reap the benefits of universal free school lunches is a very welcome start to the New Year, both for them and their parents.

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What’s Glow-ing on? How Scottish pupils are using the Internet to learn⤴

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Yesterday pupils and teachers from six Scottish schools met the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Angela Constance and Minister for Schools, Science and Scotland’s Languages, Alasdair Allan to talk about how they use Glow, Scotland’s national online environment for learning, and digital technology generally in their schools. Glow is unique, allowing pupils to use the Internet to learn in a secure environment accessible from anywhere and at any time from any device. It includes social features such as blogs and discussion areas and it supports Curriculum for Excellence, Scotland’s holistic, flexible and pupil-centered way of learning for 3 to 18 year olds.

There was a real buzz in the room as pupils talked about digital technology and showed off the ways they are using Glow in their schools. Some of the reasons they said they like using Glow were:

  • Teachers can add comments to homework
  • Being able to talk to each other about what they are doing in class and easily share ideas
  • The pupils are too young to join Facebook or Twitter and Glow gives them an alternative to be able to talk to their friends
  • Glow is a safe environment
  • They like Glow’s personalised launchpad as it gives easy access to their favourite apps
  • The advice on Glow about not giving away personal details is helpful (Community Rules)
  • Teachers can upload revision videos which gives pupils a different way to revise.

glow kid testimonial

The pupils were also honest about the drawbacks of using Glow, listing internet connectivity problems and the lack of devices in the classroom sometimes being an issue.

Gemma Sanderson, a teacher from Kirkton of Largo Primary School said: “Glow is so much better, I’m on it every day. The main thing for our school is that everything is in Glow – all in one place. Children like how everything is linked.”

Glow is available to every pupil and teacher in Scotland. To find out more about what is happening with Glow in your local area, to submit a query about how to get started and how to use Glow, please get in touch with your local authority key contact.

 

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What is it like to study in Scotland with the Saltire Scholarship programme?⤴

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Victoria and Sharisse

Saltire Scholars Victoria and Sharisse

 

Scotland’s Saltire Scholarships (SSS) is a scholarship programme that offers scholarships on a match funded basis and is a partnership between Scottish Government and Scottish Higher Education Institutions. SSS offers up to 200 awards, each worth £2000 and are put toward the tuition fees for any one year of full time study on an Undergraduate, Masters or PhD course at any of Scotland’s higher education institutions.

The scholarships are designed to support the promotion of Scotland as a learning nation and are targeted at the priority sectors of creative industries, life sciences, technology, financial services and renewable and clean energy and are available across Canada, China, India and the United States of America to people who want to study in Scotland.

Here two Canadian students, Victoria and Sharisse, share their experiences as Saltire Scholars:

Hi there! Or should I say, ‘Hiya!’ My Name is Sharisse Dukhu and I’m from Toronto, Canada. I completed an undergraduate degree in Physical and Health Education at the University of Toronto. Starting a Master of Science in Physiotherapy at Queen Margaret University was a natural stepping stone in my career path. I chose to further my education in Scotland to experience a new culture and to extend my personal and professional network across the pond.   More specifically, I was drawn to QMU as I also wanted to seize the opportunity of living in a small town like Musselburgh, without sacrificing the entertainment and historical charm that Edinburgh embodies. In addition to a supportive international team at QMU, the Saltire Scholarship has provided financial support which has allowed me to explore beyond academia. As a Saltire Scholar, I look for every opportunity to experience Scotland in a new way, and I have yet to be disappointed. Having taken a recent trip to Inverness and the Isle of Skye, words fail to express the natural beauty in the landscape and the kindness of the people.  I look forward to another year yet to come!

 

My name is Victoria Woodhouse, I am from Canada completing a Master of Science in Social Justice, Development and Health, a program unique to Queen Margaret University. I chose this collaborative program as it underlies the importance of equity, solidarity, human rights and health. The financial support received as a Saltire Scholar to offset tuition costs has enhanced my opportunity to maximize my academic experience. Attending university in Scotland as a Saltire Scholar is an excellent opportunity to interact with students from other countries and provide me with a global perspective necessary when working in the field of development. It has expanded my worldview to extend beyond the limits of my Canadian boundaries truly helping me become a global citizen. Scotland is the ideal place to study abroad. Not only have I experienced and learned about Scottish tradition, heritage and history but my life in Edinburgh, a festival city, provides a great opportunity to interact with students from around the world in a sophisticated, positive environment. QMU is an inclusive learning institution that provides me with knowledge and skill development and values my input and experience. It offers a comfortable, safe and respectful study environment. It is also recognized as an environmentally sustainable campus, a feature that is consistent with my principles. I am not only a student of QMU, I am a resident of Scotland. It has become my home away from home. The transition to living in Scotland has been seamless because of the welcoming and friendly people. Whether attending a Cèilidh or studying with my peers, my experience as a Saltire Scholar is helping to establish a solid platform for my future.

 

 

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Growing up in Scotland- tracking the lives of thousands of Scotland’s children⤴

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The Growing Up in Scotland study (GUS) has been following the lives of children and their families across Scotland for nearly 10 years. There are 2 groups of children taking part in the research – an older group of 3,500 children now in Primary 6, and a younger group of 6,000 children who are approaching their 5th birthdays.

The study is funded by the Scottish Government to provide new information about what makes Scotland the ‘best place to grow up’. GUS helps us to look at how the circumstances and experiences of children in Scotland are changing and how early experiences can have an impact later on in life.

With an increasing focus on overall child wellbeing, research findings from GUS can help us to understand why some children feel unhappy and why some children have social and emotional difficulties. Our researchers used information provided by seven year-old children and their mothers from around 3,200 families, who were interviewed in 2012/13, to explore Family and school influences on children’s social and emotional well-being.

Not surprisingly, the research finds that relationships are key to child wellbeing. Greater conflict in parent-child relationships, lower parental awareness of children’s activities and/or relationships when not at school, children’s difficulties adjusting to primary school and children having poorer quality friendships were associated with children having high levels of behavioural and emotional problems, and with lower life satisfaction.

For more detail, please see the full report or read a blog by the lead researcher, Alison Parkes from the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow.

Also new from GUS

We have developed some new pages on our website for children. Although primarily aimed at the P6 children who are taking part in the study, they might also be of interest to others. The pages include a fun quiz which highlights some of our research findings. Please have a look and let us know what you think.

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