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18 January 2018

Education, education, education

Education, education, education

This month sees the latest stage of the Scottish Government's education reform consultation come to a close. Improving educational outcomes and closing the 'attainment gap' between the schools in the richest and poorest neighbourhoods is the stated top priority of the Scottish Government and it's an area that we at the Evangelical Alliance have followed closely over the last two years.

We've done this because these reforms engage with some of what we believe to be kingdom priorities in today's Scotland and therefore are some of our top advocacy priorities. They touch on how to build a more just society more reflective of the fact that we are all made in God's image. They affect family life with a recognition of the role of parents as key in any and every child's upbringing. And there is the opportunity to strengthen local community engagement in the life of a school, an area where numerous Christian organisations help support the education system, from large national organisations such as Scripture Union and Transforming Lives for Good, to local churches supporting the life and work of their local school.

Structurally the reforms are principally concerned with school governance – the role of headteachers, local authorities, parents, pupils and structures that support them. Specifically they devolve significant powers from the local authority level to the headteacher over areas such as budgets and staffing appointments. The local authority, who up until now have had all these responsibilities, will take on more of a support and oversight role alongside new regional improvement collaboratives. There are also provisions to update the role of parental engagement and pupil participation with the aim of increasing the influence of both.

On the whole they are good aspirations and proposals and there are real opportunities for Christian teachers, parents and pupils to be a positive influence in the life of their school community. But the narrow focus on what happens in the school day (and behind the school gate) means that the overarching aim of raising attainment in areas most in need may not be tackled as well as it could be.

As Christians we recognise that life is holistic, that family life in particular, and wider community life, has a huge impact on young people fulfilling their potential. And whilst the consultation recognises both these factors, there is almost nothing by way of concrete proposals to help in this area. As an alliance of churches and organisations who do vast amounts of work in family support, community support, and with children and young people in deprived areas, we recognise that there is a missed opportunity here. It is vital that as these reforms move forward there is space for the voice of those working on the ground in local communities to be heard and greater community partnerships to be sought to support every school community in Scotland.

We will be responding to the consultation and continuing to engage with MSPs and civil servants as the process continues. The consultation closes on Tuesday, 30 January 2018. You can respond here: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/archive/thegovernancereview

Some organisations involved in school and family support in Scotland:

Scripture Union Scotland https://www.suscotland.org.uk/

TLG https://www.tlg.org.uk/

Christian Values in Education http://www.cve-scotland.org.uk/

Bethany Christian Trust http://www.bethanychristiantrust.com/

Home for Good https://www.homeforgood.org.uk/

Safe Families for Children https://www.safefamiliesforchildren.com/regions/scotland/