Raising attainment takes centre stage

DFM praises project to close the poverty-related gap.

The life-changing potential of a Scottish Government-funded project working with deprived young people has been hailed by Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

Created by two former teachers, the Centrestage Leadership Connect programme works with young people who are excluded or at risk from being excluded from school, using theatre and the arts to help them back into education.

On a visit to the project in Kilmarnock, where he met young people and their families, Mr Swinney said:

“I am very impressed with Centrestage, which is making a tangible and positive difference to the lives of young people in Ayrshire’s most deprived communities. By unlocking the particular strengths of individual pupils, and working closely with schools, they are supporting pupils back into education and helping them to realise their potential.

“Centrestage is taking an innovative approach to tackling the impact of disadvantage on attainment and the life chances of our most vulnerable young people. I look forward to seeing how this project progresses and what lessons we can learn in our work to close the attainment gap.”

Centrestage CEO Fiona McKenzie said:

“At Centrestage, we passionately believe that all young people, regardless of circumstance, have strengths and capability to succeed. Our approach for this project builds from our experience as school teachers, then from working with prisoners in HMP Kilmarnock, many of whom were former pupils, who’d been excluded from mainstream education as a direct consequence of deprivation.

“We focus on strengths and potential and use the arts to engage and motivate young people, tailoring support on an individual basis, building strong relationships with the children and their families. We’ve already seen success supporting young people back into education and going on to achieve positive outcomes and are keen to expand the reach of this project. Supporting young people to be included within school and the wider community is at the heart of Connect.”


Centrestage currently works with 83 young people from across 10 schools in East Ayrshire.

The Centrestage Leadership Connect is supported with £540,000 from the Social Innovation Partnership Fund in 2016-18.

East Ayrshire Council is highly supportive of the Centrestage Leadership Connect and intends to seek formal approval from its Cabinet to make a £100,000 contribution using Scottish Government Attainment Challenge Funding.

Gurjit Singh: 0131 244 270/ 07810 507 014


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