Youth workers can help schools deliver A Curriculum for Excellence, claims the chief executive of Learning and Teaching Scotland.
Bernard McLeary called for more opportunities for teachers and youth workers to train and work together. This would allow more schools to benefit from youth workers' local knowledge and ability to build relationships; it would also help improve connections to pupils' homes and other partner agencies, such as health services and the police.
LTS also wants to see the skills for "leading partnerships" built into initial teacher education and CPD.
Strategic planning should highlight the contribution youth work can make to achieving national outcomes, including ACfE, says a new LTS report focusing on positive partnerships between schools and youth work called Bridging the Gap.
Speaking at the launch of the report at St David's High in Dalkeith, Midlothian, Mr McLeary said: "As the implementation of A Curriculum for Excellence moves forward, we need to continue to develop and strengthen the links between schools and other learning providers that give Scotland's young people access to more choices and opportunities and so improve outcomes for them."
Bridging the Gap provides examples of youth work and school collaborations in Scotland, highlighting six areas in which Scottish schools are working with youth work - supporting transitions, improving health and wellbeing, developing literacy and numeracy, promoting and recognising achievement, community-based learning and promoting citizenship.
John Sweeney, head of YouthLink Scotland, the national agency for youth work, challenged all authorities to introduce and encourage youth work in their schools.
Christine Pollock, North Lanarkshire's director of learning and leisure services, said her authority had a long history of youth workers working in and around schools.
P7 pupils experiencing difficulties making the transition to Peterhead Academy in Aberdeenshire were helped by the Bridging Support Group. Youth workers established positive relationships with young people prior to their visit to the academy in June. They were then encouraged to take part in Movin' On Up for the first week of the summer holidays. This was delivered by a multi-agency group of staff including youth workers, teachers, social workers and police. Senior pupils also played a key role as mentors. The programme developed young people's confidence and communication skills. Almost all said they had made friends and felt more confident about the transition.
Improving health and wellbeing
Primary children with poor attendance were picked up by youth workers in a minibus, given a healthy breakfast and helped with homework in a bid to encourage them to go to school. Participation in the breakfast club, run by Royston Wardieburn Community Centre in Edinburgh, led to young people building their confidence and self-esteem, developing their ICT skills, adopting healthier lifestyles, and building their resilience and independent living skills. Youth workers also helped build links between home and school, alerted teaching staff to issues affecting young people and encouraged participation in other programmes at the centre. One teacher said: "A nice start to the day with a good breakfast and positive encounters made a difference."
Promoting and recognising achievement
One Highland secondary, Dornoch Academy, integrated the Duke of Edinburgh award into its S3 timetable, showing how learning and achievement in school and the wider community could be recognised and valued. One pupil said: "It helped us with maths, athletic skills, and cooking, as well as helping us at home. I was able to transfer my skills and help someone."