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Whose Needs are being met by Scottish schooling? Discuss the various stakeholders (children, parents, society, the state), there potential needs and evaluate how well they are met.
The state recognises the need for children to be educated. It is recognised as a right, a responsibility and a necessity. Society no longer relies as heavily on the male bread winner model and as a consequence parents in the majority of cases no longer have the option of providing child care and education to their children themselves. As we are entering an age of hi tech manufacturing and developing a high skilled economy the government is also looking for an educated population and can no longer work with a society of illiterate or poorly educated citizens. An uneducated population would also be less responsive to government campaigns and information or guidance and may be unable to fulfil their role in society and the democratic process. Children themselves, it has been acknowledged, have a right to be educated; "No person shall be denied the right to education" (European Convention on Human Rights; schedule 1, article 2).That does not however mean that the education provided is what children want or what they need. Neither does it mean that main stream education in Scotland is provided with everyone's best interests in mind. All of the parties mentioned above will have criticisms or be disappointed by what state education in Scotland provides to some extent; however I wish to make it clear that for the majority of stakeholders the Scottish education system provides acceptable outcomes. Also, in recent years significant steps have been taken in Scotland to improve the education system for those stake holders currently losing out, mainly children themselves, and I wish to analyse this in more detail.
In 2009 there were 676,740 pupils in publicly funded schools in Scotland (Scottish government; pupil numbers) and educational expenditure was £4.87 billion in 2007-08 (Scottish government; Expenditure on school education in Scotland). This amounts to a significant proportion of Scotland's population currently in the Scottish public education system and a significant proportion of national spending. Spending on education amounts to a large proportion of public spending and must therefore be a high priority for the government, denoting that it is a high priority for society as a whole.
As well as being a right under the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights) education is also a right under the Universal declaration of human rights enshrined in UK law in the Human rights act 1998; "Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory....."(Universal declaration of human rights; article 26 (1)) and in the UNCRC (United nations Convention on the right of the child), "To ensure that all segments of society, in particular parents and children, are informed, have access to education and are supported in the use of basic knowledge..." (UNCRC; article 24, 2(e)). Few public services are as strongly protected by rights and acts as those regarding access to education. Yet to what extent education should be provided and who its main focus should be on remains unclear.
For many years arguments raged about Scottish education only being beneficial to the 'average' child and that those who needed additional support needs or who did not work well within formal educational settings were being left behind or ignored for the greater good. The Scottish government has therefore gone a long way in recent years to attempt to address this. The school curriculum in Scotland is not statutory but instead the government sets out a framework which it then expects teachers to work within. The newest framework published is the 'Curriculum for excellence'. This framework is built around four kea capacities that the Scottish government want to instil in every Scottish young person by the end of their time in education. It is also very heavily based on current research that suggests the best way to engage all pupils in the classroom is by using inter disciplinary skills and different learning and teaching methods such as projects, e-learning, lectures and peer on peer evaluation. The Scottish government claim;
"The curriculum aims to ensure that all children and young people in Scotland develop the attributes, knowledge and skills they will need to flourish in life, learning and work. This is encapsulated in the four capacities - to enable each child or young person to be a successful learner, a confident individual, a responsible citizen and an effective contributor". (Learning and Teaching Scotland; Curriculum 3-18)
However what good are these outcomes if so many young people find themselves leaving education with no or very few meaning qualifications and no useful trade or work related skills?
The benchmark for measuring pupil attainment in Scotland is the SCQF (Scottish credit and qualification framework) score. At the age of 14 to 15 almost every child in Scotland will sit a set of standard grade exams. 5 plus passes at SCQF level 4 (standard grade general) is considered the minimum standard of attainment that could be merited with success and which could lead to progression through those qualifications. School league tables are drawn up based on how well pupils did in this quartile and yet 24.4% of Scottish students fail to achieve this benchmark almost a quarter of all Scottish young people (Scottish government; SQA attainment and school leaver qualifications in Scotland: 2008/09). On top of this 14.53% of young people leaving Scottish schools in 2009 were not in education employment or training and therefore had no positive destination (Scottish government; Destinations of Leavers from Scottish Schools: 2008/09 ) . This hardly seems like a system which empowers every young person to develop skills that will make it possible for them to always find a positive destination in society. It may also demonstrates that there approach has so far failed to bring about tangible results which will benefit all the stakeholders in the Scottish education system. The government however may well point out that a major element of their reforms of Scottish education will come in the form of changes to the qualifications system. These changes will not be implemented however until 2016 when the SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority has drafted, approved and tested the new examinations, designed to focus on kea skills and development of literacy and numeracy throughout all school subjects.
There has also been a significant shift in the attitudes held towards aiding children with learning and Behavioural issues or disabilities in Scottish education and in bridging the gap between youth work, schools and less formal educational approaches. The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 was introduced to provide statutory protection to all young people in Scottish education who feel they may need more support. Article 1(defining additional support needs) states;
"A child or young person has additional support needs for the purposes of this Act where, for whatever reason, the child or young person is, or is likely to be, unable without the provision of additional support to benefit from school education provided or to be provided for the child or young person"
This means that any child in Scotland for whatever reason who feels like they may need additional support are legally entitled to it. This law has been heavily advertised and publicised however the resources to back up this legislation and provide the support are often extremely over stretched and exhausted. The Bridging the Gap report between youth work and schools was another innovative idea that the Scottish government hoped would improve the education system for all stake holders but particularly those for whom main stream education was not appropriate the report aimed to;
"Set the policy context and offer examples of practice to encourage youth work and school partnerships across Scotland to deliver more opportunities to engage and inspire young people."(Learning teaching Scotland; bridging the gap report, page5)
This approach to education and introducing youth work and community learning in to the school setting shows a willingness to make education more accessible and relevant to all students and to engage everyone in the learning process. Whether or not this program will have any success remains to be seen.
Scottish education therefore does deliver for the majority of stakeholders most of the time. It provides a childcare option for parents between the child's age of 5 and 16. It keeps the majority of the population literate and able to grasp basic numeracy and it gives a high number of school children a chance to gain skills and gain knowledge which will help them go in to further education, employment or training. It is clear that there is still a proportion of society which the current Scottish education system is not providing for however the Scottish government has gone a long way in its attempts to tackle issues with the system and has succeeded in providing a system which meets most of the needs of most of its stakeholders.