We are honoured to be Independent Facilitators of the National Discussion to inform a renewed vision for the future of Scottish education. We have sought throughout this National Discussion to uphold our role as Independent Facilitators by genuinely seeking out and listening to voices across Scotland. In particular, we have sought the views of children and young people, especially those who are not frequently heard in large-scale engagement activities, such as the National Discussion.
In this report, we present and represent the viewpoints of those who responded to the call of 'Let's Talk Scottish Education'. This report identifies themes and suggestions that had broad support in the responses. Our commitment to be truly independent facilitators means that our report also includes views that can be conflicting, controversial, and perhaps uncomfortable for some to hear. We feel strongly that it is our responsibility to represent what we heard in response to the question: "What kind of education will be needed by children and young people in Scotland in the future and how do we make that a reality?"
The scale of response to the National Discussion was unprecedented in the history of engagement about the Scottish education system. We are deeply grateful to everyone who gave their time and attention to share their views, experiences, expertise, and suggestions. We appreciated the opportunity to meet with people in person across Scotland, to facilitate and participate in online meetings, events, and focus groups, to engage in social media activities for #TalkScottishEducation, to read the responses submitted, and to view photographs, drawings, videos, and other forms of submissions received.
Facilitating the National Discussion has been a true honour. We have both spent our careers working in education and we believe in the power of education to transform lives and life chances. We approached our role as Independent Facilitators as needing to put aside our own views and genuinely listen to the views expressed by participants. It was inspiring and energising to hear the passion, care, and concern that participants in the National Discussion had for ensuring the very best education for children and young people In Scotland.
We heard from children and young people about what they liked, wanted, and needed for an education inside and outside of school that respected their rights and equipped them for success in their lives. We met with education professionals who spoke of instilling the joy and igniting the love of learning and their appreciation about the opportunity to talk with each other and with us about learning and teaching.
We heard from parents and carers who wanted the very best for their child/children and to be actively engaged in their education. We also heard from organisations, agencies, and communities who wanted to contribute to supporting the rights, learning, equity, and well-being of children and young people across Scotland.
Many of the National Discussion engagements involved lots of energy, conversations, and ideas. We heard an optimism for the future of Scottish education and an enthusiasm to be part of taking the outcomes of the National Discussion going forward.
Facilitating the National Discussion has also been humbling and, at times, challenging. We heard about experiences that were deeply concerning and troubling. We heard from some parents and carers who felt that their child/children had been failed by the Scottish education system. We heard from young carers who just wanted to 'be ordinary at school' despite their huge responsibilities at such a young age. We heard of children and young people who did not receive the necessary supports and resources to meet their needs, including Additional Support Needs, long-term conditions, and disabilities. We heard about distressing incidents and inequities, including use of exclusions, experiences of violence, suicidal thoughts and attempts, bullying, harassment, discrimination, anxiety, stress, and ill-health. We listened to people expressing frustration, grief, and anger. We heard a pessimism about what was truly possible and a cynicism about whether genuine educational improvement was intended and could be achieved.
Throughout the responses, there was a concern for the present and future realities. The need to make practical and relevant changes with sufficient implementation supports and time for consolidation was stressed. The National Discussion took place in the aftermath of a global pandemic with its continuing impacts on health, wellbeing, equity, and learning for children and young people (and for adults). The impact of austerity, a cost-of-living crisis, climate change and environmental concerns, and war in our world cannot be downplayed.
The emerging future is also pressing – rapid digital acceleration, increasing diversity and migration, and changing employment, entrepreneurship, and career opportunities and trajectories. While the purpose of the National Discussion was to establish a renewed vision for Scottish education, realising the vision requires attention to the practicalities of designing, implementing, resourcing, and developing the capacity for short term, medium term and long-term educational change outlined in the Call to Action.
We would like to thank the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) for co-convening this historic National Discussion. We are indebted for the support provided by officials in the National Discussion team and the independent analyses of responses submitted conducted by The Lines Between. We appreciate greatly the many individuals, groups, and organisations who hosted and facilitated their own National Discussion events and activities and submitted responses to inform this work. As stated previously, we are deeply grateful to everyone who engaged with, participated in, and responded to this National Discussion.
We have listened to many voices. The experience has been inspiring, insightful, and informative, we felt trusted in the process to listen and learn. While the official National Discussion has ended, ongoing engagement in education must continue, and vital appropriate actions must follow. We are hopeful for a future Scottish education where All Learners in Scotland Matter and fundamentally know that they matter. The current and future generations of learners in Scotland deserve nothing less.
Professor Carol Campbell and Professor Alma Harris
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