Skills focus a far cry from sending pupils ‘down mines’

4th December 2015 at 00:00
Developing Scotland’s Workforce leader says schools should focus on boosting entrepreneurial potential

Making children learn about the world of work from the age of 3 does not mean ministers are gearing up to send them “down the mines”, a key figure at Education Scotland has said.

Joan Mackay, the body’s lead on Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce, called for a cultural shift in Scotland’s primary schools to focus on developing pupils’ skills and boosting their entrepreneurial potential.

She said: “People seem to think that because we’re talking about teaching work from age 3 onwards, that means we’re sending them down the mines. What we mean is start talking to them about their skills.”

She went on to talk about “Connor”, a P7 pupil she had met during an enterprise education lesson. The youngster had taken the pound he had been given, bought some shoe polish, borrowed a rag from his mother and made more than £70 shining shoes.

Ms Mackay said: “What happened with Connor? Probably nothing. Did he go back on Monday to more SPMG books? Probably.

“He needs something different so what should we be planning for him? Or should we just say he has to do his stint in school and then when all his entrepreneurial spirit has died we will offer him something else?”

The Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce published its final report last year, criticising schools for focusing on the 50 per cent of pupils with academic aspirations.

It said that preparing young people for employment should be “a core element” of Curriculum for Excellence and called for careers information to be provided in primary along with “some introduction to the world of work”.

The government now expects careers education to be offered from ages 3 to 18.

Ms Mackay was speaking at an event organised by primary leaders association AHDS and Education Scotland, designed to showcase the good work that was already going on at primary level.

At Preston Street Primary in Edinburgh, pupils can apply for one of 10 jobs every term, from headteacher’s PA to lost property officer. The children go through an application process where they have to summarise their skills and hobbies, and make a statement in support of their application.

At Dunbar Primary in East Lothian, every student creates their own website in P7 in order to showcase their skills. It was the school’s take on the P7 profile, depute head Jaclyn Eeles told TESS.

Every website followed a basic template dictated by the school, with a total of eight sections, including a first page with personal information, and sections on literacy and numeracy and on interests outside school. Children are encouraged to work on the websites at home and when secondary guidance staff meet with P7 pupils entering S1 they use the website as the basis for their discussion.

“That had to be part of the deal because we didn’t want to be putting in all this work for it not to be used,” explained Ms Eeles.

At Knightswood Primary in Glasgow the school realised that not all pupils had the same opportunities to develop their skills that might feed into career choices later on. For the third time this winter they will run a Saturday club for 40 P5-7 pupils, giving them access to dance, tae kwon do and cookery lessons.

Headteacher Ann McIntosh said the idea is to offer opportunities to be successful to children who, for all sorts of reasons, did not get the same chances as other children.

The children who would benefit most are identified through an audit conducted by Ms McIntosh. These children get first refusal on a place in the club. The remaining places are then filled via a ballot.

Ms McIntosh continued: “We look at those that are already members of clubs and who already go to things like Brownies. We also take into account deprivation levels and free school meals. If these children apply they are guaranteed a place.”

The Saturday club is set to run in January next year and the focus is going to be on reading for pleasure.


Invest in Youth Groups set to boost schools’ links to industry

Schools looking for links with industry and meaningful work experience opportunities will be able to tap into a network of 20 regional business groups by next spring.

The regional hubs will establish “a portfolio of enthusiastic employers” in their areas, says Rob Woodward, the chief executive of STV who is leading work to support employer involvement in Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce.

So far six groups – called “Regional Invest in Youth Groups” – had been established, he told a recent meeting of the secondary headteachers’ organisation School Leaders Scotland.

This was not the first attempt to bridge the gap between employers and education, but this had a greater chance of success because it was a long-term initiative, he said. The regional groups are being funded for three years.

School-leavers and work

382,000 young Scots (63.1 per cent) are employed

67,000 young Scots (14.9 per cent) are unemployed

More than 50 per cent of school-leavers don’t go to university

Less than 30 per cent of Scottish businesses have contact of any kind with education

Young Scots = 16- to 24-year-olds

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