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Don't call time on children learning

The formal school curriculum is too limited to deliver the Scottish Executive's national priorities on education, it was claimed last week.

Leading figures in the Scottish Study Support Network, who were holding their annual conference in Perth last week, said there had to be closer links between out-of-school-hours learning (OSHL) and what pupils learnt in schools.

Phil Street, chief executive of ContinYou, the English-based organisation aimed at extending learning opportunities, said the priorities cannot be delivered without out-of-hours learning "simply because lots of children we are trying to work with learn in so many different ways and there just is not the scope within the school day to respond".

A major challenge, Mr Street said, is to lengthen the learning day. "It is a chance to be innovative and imaginative outside the constraints of the school day because, without that, we are going to find that a lot of our children will be left high and dry in terms of their aspirations and hopes for the future."

Kevin Brown, director of the Scottish Study Support Network, said that the formal curriculum was "severely limited" and this made it difficult to meet all the national priorities.

Kay Livingston, director of the Quality in Education Centre at Strathclyde University, who officially launched ContinYou in Scotland at the conference, said that out-of-school learning is about finding a curriculum that goes beyond the formal without the divisions which exist at the moment.

Children cannot become autonomous learners in the classroom, John Crossman of ContinYou said. "They have to be outside the classroom and OSHL is where they can try out being lifelong learners"."

ContinYou aims to work with local and national groups in Scotland to create opportunities for people to access that kind of learning. "What is most important and exciting is setting up innovative and exemplary projects where we can say, 'this actually works'," Mr Crossman said.

Workshops organised at the conference featured a range of the out-of-hours activities being undertaken in schools throughout Scotland, including chess, astronomy, primary French and drama, community bands, archaeology and fitness and health.

Nadine Miyasar, aged 14, a pupil at Balwearie High in Fife and a member of the out-of-hours Arabic class at Kirkcaldy High, says such activities "can help develop your social and communication skills and help in reaching a higher level of understanding of many aspects of education".

But she made a strong plea for pupils to be more involved in running them.

"We want to be heard, we want to be involved and we want to be equal, but that can only happen if some adults are willing to work with us," Nadine said.

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