There have been many things over the years that have caused my blood pressure to rise and one that has been very close to my heart in recent years is the annual publication of unofficial Scottish school "league tables".
The Scottish government publishes raw data on exams but deliberately avoids league tables because they don't offer a wider picture of a school's performance. However, the data provides the raw material for Scottish newspapers, many of which compile a list of the "best-performing" schools based on Higher results alone.
So, what are the benefits, apart from giving estate agents the ammunition to add another digit or two to the selling price of houses in the catchment of the highest-performing schools? Not too many, as far as I can see.
However, the damage is plenty and in my view is not reflective of much of the great work undertaken by schools where pupils are drawn from among the country's most-deprived areas, in the bottom fifth of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (commonly referred to as SIMD).
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As well as the great work carried out by the schools with the core curriculum, we see many schools within these areas who are engaging the support of a multitude of partner organisations from the third sector as they seek to improve the life chances of their young people.
The bad news is that this extra-curricular activity and learning is not being recognised within the unofficial school league tables.
Young Enterprise Scotland is one of many organisations whose activity is making a difference to young people in life and work and one of its programmes is about to go through a transformation that will be a game-changer for the young people participating – and, hopefully, the standing of the school overall.
Through a jointly-funded collaboration between the Scottish government and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership (SCQFP), the Young Enterprise Company Programme will now be credit rated. (SCQF credit rating is the formal process undertaken for qualifications and learning programmes to be included on the SCQF – Scotland’s lifelong learning framework.)
This credit rating is in itself a game-changer. Our company programme is aimed at every young person and is accessible to young people who perhaps aren’t likely to gain traditional, academic qualifications.
It’s so important that enterprise education is recognised in this way. Not every young person will attain academic qualifications, so it’s vital that their determination across different subjects is recognised and rewarded. Our programme has influenced hundreds of young people over the years and we’re very proud to be involved in inspiring youngsters to go on and succeed in business.
Two great examples where it has made a difference are Lochend Community High School in Glasgow and Northfield Academy in Aberdeen, which sit in positions 338 and 339 respectively out of the 339 schools listed in the spurious league tables. Northfield Academy pupils have, for example, presented their business within a packed Scottish Parliament and were interviewed by first minister Nicola Sturgeon.
The company programme provides a real-life learning opportunity introducing young people to the realities of the world of work. Students set up and run their own student company, making all decisions about their business; from deciding on the company name and product to managing the company finances. They sell to the public with pop-up shops and an online platform. Participants gain the practical business experience, adaptability, entrepreneurial mindset and employability skills needed to secure successful futures, as well as qualifications.
In short, their life chances are being improved significantly through this programme of “learning by doing” – but this sort of thing won’t show up in the cobbled-together school league tables that appear every year. You really don’t need me to tell you there’s something wrong with that.
Geoff Leask is chief executive of Young Enterprise Scotland