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Yesterday, I attended a conference in Glasgow about Scotland becoming more trauma informed. In a powerful presentation, Dr Warren Larkin quoted a 2014 research article entitled “What Predicts a Successful Life? A Life-Course Model of Well-Being”, which said:
“The most powerful childhood predictor of adult life-satisfaction is the child’s emotional health. Next comes the child’s conduct. The least powerful predictor is the child’s intellectual development. This has obvious implications for educational policy.”
I mention that because trauma-informed thinking has an impact on policy here in Scotland, which is why policies such as getting it right for every child, PEF and curriculum for excellence are at the heart of the Government’s approach to making Scotland the best place in which to grow up and learn.
Curriculum for excellence has transformed learning for children and young people across the country. Instead of rigid classroom learning, we now have a curriculum that can be flexible to young people’s strengths and ensure that they reach positive destinations once their school careers are finished. Because of the support for teachers that is provided through the national improvement hub and the fact that, under curriculum for excellence, schools have the freedom to design a set of courses, qualifications and awards between S4 and S6 that is tailored to young people’s needs, the number of courses on offer to pupils has increased.
Just today, in North Lanarkshire, I got to witness at first hand an example of curriculum for excellence in action. It was my pleasure to attend St Andrew’s high school in Coatbridge to talk to pupils in the advanced higher modern studies class about their dissertations. They had some great questions and were clearly thriving in their learning. It was great that pupils from the nearby St Margaret’s, which is in Alex Neil’s Airdrie and Shotts constituency, were also there.
That happens regularly across the council area. It allows pupils to do the courses that they want to do and get access to high-quality teaching. On that note, I thank Ms Gallagher, who set up today’s meeting, and her predecessor Mr Roy, who is now at St Ambrose, for their work in the area. The situation is not new. I remember that, when I was at Coatbridge high school, I wanted to take modern studies, history and geography. To make that happen, I had to travel to Rosehall high school, which is no longer there, for geography. I do not understand why there would be any issue with the pooling of resources in the area.
Closing the attainment gap is at the centre of this Government’s approach to education, and I strongly disagree with the suggestion that we are imposing barriers to pupil success and achievement. The investment in pupil equity funding is designed for areas such as mine. St Andrew’s high school, which I have just talked about, has many children from areas that are high in the Scottish index of multiple deprivation, as does Coatbridge high school, which I visited a couple of weeks ago.