International Council of Education Advisers: third report 2021-2023

This is the third formal report of the ICEA relating to their third two-year term (2021-2023) of work.

Strategic Area 4: Engagement of students, families, and communities

In the previous report, the ICEA recommended that the role and involvement of students, families, and communities should be extended in all aspects of Scottish education. The ICEA commends Scottish education for its bold progress toward this goal, for example through the National Discussion about the future of Scottish education and the innovative forms of participation undertaken by the Hayward Review. The next step is to ensure the experiences and perspectives that students, families, and communities shared are seriously considered in developing educational policy and practice. In particular, those of the marginalised whose needs could remain unserved. Rather than seeking uniformity, the system should consider how equity and excellence could be advanced for all, albeit differently in different communities.

One critical area of need is mental health and well-being. The problems that COVID-19 created for children’s mental health and well-being such as grief, anxiety, depression, and loneliness did not end when the pandemic was over. A 2022 UNESCO report on health and well-being explained how “the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the unmet need for mental health services”. A report by the European Parliament and the OECD, presented data revealing that rates of anxiety and depression were higher for young people under age 25 than for any other age group during the later and not just the earlier stages of COVID-19. These worrying trends had even more severe consequences for low income and minority groups. A 2022 UNICEF report pointed to long-term issues that many children and their teachers were having to deal with in post-pandemic times such as being “overly cautious and fearful”, “struggling to interact with others”, and worrying about “having fallen behind in school”. These international reports pointed to the immediate importance of making child mental health and well-being a policy priority and the longer-term implications for academic achievement and equity.

But schools cannot deal with such issues alone. In line with the Scottish Government’s Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) policy, the ICEA recommends bringing together multiple agencies and institutions such as social service agencies and universities to collaborate on these efforts. There are some existing collaborative initiatives which can serve as models of expanding this effort. For example, The West Partnership brings together educators from eight local authorities who together serve 35% of Scotland’s children and young people. Its workstream of wellbeing seeks to amplify the voices of children and young people, engage families in the learning process, collaborate with local agencies, and share good practice among practitioners. The Network for Social and Educational Equity is another example of collaboration among schools, universities, local authorities, the social services sector and Education Scotland with a justice-focused mission of mitigating the poverty-related attainment gap in young people’s education. The voices of children and young people and attention to context are central to the work of this evidence-driven network. The young people even have opportunities to learn from a global perspective, thus understanding the broad reach they can have as global citizens (e.g. through collaboration with children and young people in other education systems). We therefore reaffirm our earlier advice as an ICEA to continue to deeply engage children and young people, families, and communities in the educational process.

Specific Recommendations

1. Develop additional mechanisms to ensure that the voices of children and young people, families and communities across the system (those in the system experiencing the greatest challenges) are heard and will inform educational change in the system.

2. Ensure that parents, carers and family members have a strong understanding of the learning pathways and opportunities available for their children and young people so that they can participate confidently and productively in supporting learning trajectories.

3. Find innovative ways to partner with the social service sectors to support families, deal with mental health and well-being issues, and inform curriculum, teaching, and learning.

4. Continue to work on establishing partnerships across education (school and university) and other sectors to create spaces for learning outside of the school walls and school day, within and across local communities.



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