5. Equalities considerations
The Scottish Government recognises the importance of equalities issues and how people with the protected characteristics set out in the 2011 Equalities Act may be impacted by changes to education in Scotland. Reflecting this importance, and the level of engagement with equalities and representative groups during the National Discussion, this chapter presents an analysis of comments about learners with protected characteristics.
While many issues were raised by individual participants, several organisations shared detailed responses reflecting their knowledge and expertise of working with or for groups with protected characteristics. Key points from their submissions are included below, but there is not space in this report to detail their full responses; readers can review these in full on the Scottish Government website, where permission for publication has been granted.
General comments on protected characteristics
Several participants' comments on equalities spanned multiple groups or did not specify protected characteristics. These mostly focused on principles, such as the importance of equity and respect for protected groups in education, embedding diversity in education, and having a curriculum that prevents and challenges racism, homophobia, and all other forms of prejudice and discrimination based on protected characteristics.
Participants felt schools have a role in improving knowledge and understanding of protected groups, and a responsibility to create environments where all sexualities, genders, ethnicities and cultures are welcomed. Ensuring the curriculum, teaching and learning addresses stereotyping, racism, gender inequality, disabilities and LGBTI+ rights was also noted, as was the issue of a lack of culturally relevant teaching, excluding some learners from relating to the curriculum. There were multiple calls to consistently and frequently celebrate difference, including events where people from different ethnic groups, religions, origins and orientation gather and learn about each other. However, a few argued it is important to ensure diversity is covered all year, not just during specific periods such as Black History Month, International Women's Day, and Pride month.
Another strand of comments centred on considering how pathways into working in education could be more accessible to those with protected characteristics and calls for a diverse workforce and role models at all levels of education, reflecting race, religion and LBGTI+. Other specific requests included for the Scottish Government to conduct equality and diversity impact analysis on any new education and qualification proposals, and for national support and guidance to ensure a focus on diversity in the curriculum
"We need to see and value for their own purposes the diverse children and families who are in our schools. Too often LGBTQ+ visibility is ignored in schools, race is seen as a tick box exercise, disability as the child's problem." – Individual
"It is vital that not only is the teaching profession in schools from a diverse background but so are the institutions that hold the power in the system. There needs to exist a diversity of lived experiences and perspectives across all our institutions such as the GTCS, Education Scotland, SQA and any future inspection bodies. This will help to ensure that the aims of providing an education system that is truly inclusive, striving for equality and social justice can actually become a reality at all levels." - Diversity in the Teaching Profession & Education Workforce subgroup
"Needs to be more education on minorities in schools e.g. gender, so everyone understands and accepts people for who they are. This will inevitably prevent bullying. Learn about other ways of communicating such as sign language, braille etc as options alongside languages - again to be more inclusive and improve communication for all." - i-Sgoil - S4,5,6 students' responses
"Students learn who matters as they witness which racial, ethnic, religious and gendered groups are normalised in the curriculum, so the curriculum needs to represent the contributions of a broad range of groups, recognise oppression, and celebrate movements against racial, gender and other oppression." - On behalf of the Race Equality and Anti-Racism in Education: Curriculum Reform Sub-Group
Disability and long-term conditions
Children and young people with disabilities and long-term conditions were one of the most commonly mentioned groups with protected characteristics. As well as calls for more support, participants described a need to raise awareness of various disabilities and suggested how to improve inclusion and accessibility.
Engagement and awareness raising
Suggestions for how to raise awareness of disabilities and conditions included dedicating class time to discuss disabilities so that children can learn about what to do to support children with disabilities and having disability awareness events in school, including fundraising and befriending opportunities. Diversity in staff hiring to include disabilities, long-term conditions and neurodiversity was also seen as important, as was giving teachers training, access to information and time to develop knowledge of conditions.
The importance of engaging directly with young people with disabilities or long-term conditions, deaf or hearing impaired young people, or neurodiverse young people was highlighted, with participants stressing the need to involve them in decision-making and listen to their views. The value of engaging with parents and ensuring parents are fully aware of what support is available was also stressed, as was the need for information about rights and access to support to be given easily and openly to families. Working with charities and services that understand neurodiversity and disability was also suggested.
Support for young people with disabilities
A variety of points were raised about supporting young people with a range of disabilities.
Calls for greater support for deaf young people were raised repeatedly by a small number of organisations with expertise in this field. They noted the particular relevance to deaf learners of UNCRC Article 23 (rights of disabled children to get the support they need, including in education) and Article 30 (minority language rights, including in education), and highlighted many ways in which accessibility for deaf people could be improved by encouraging the use of British Sign Language (BSL) which in turn would ensure BSL is seen and valued in society allowing deaf users to positively contribute to society.
Suggestions included: to deliver and rapidly extend the initiatives highlighted in the first BSL National Plan (British Sign Language (BSL): National Plan 2017 to 2023; BSL tutors to develop BSL across local authorities; a call for BSL qualifications; having BSL or Makaton as a language learned and used in every school, and increasing deaf awareness in the classroom; for deaf adults to be trained and employed to develop BSL skills in schools; to have BSL trained staff and resources available for deaf children; and for deaf people to be supported in fulfilling their potential by offering all opportunities and learning consistently in BSL, for example BSL interpreters for interviews, alternative assessment options in BSL, and ensuring the SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority) can be flexible in supporting adaptations such as private rooms, additional time or use of a scribe in exams.
The importance of support staff was also noted, particularly access to qualified Teacher of Deaf (ToD). There were requests for: local authorities to commit to returning the number of ToD to 2011 levels over the next ten years; ToD to have the status of Principal Teacher or similar to attract high quality teachers; to futureproof training of ToD and Educational Audiologists; and to listen to ToD in the design of schools and performance standards.
It was noted that deaf children are twice as likely to leave school without qualifications; one participant expressed a view that deaf children are failed by the senior phase of high school with its focus on exams, compared to BGE phase where the focus is on developing them as individuals. Suggestions for more support for deaf learners at all stages included:
- encouraging a deaf friendly ethos and environment in school, including teaching about the deaf community's culture and heritage as part of the curriculum
- providing opportunities to regularly meet other deaf children and young people and regular access to deaf role models
- conducting acoustic checks on mainstream settings used by deaf learners and on all new school buildings
- acknowledging the greater incidence of mental health issues among deaf people and offering support such as deaf CAMHS support to deaf learners and parents
In relation to visually impaired young people, suggestions included having: less cluttered classrooms; appropriate adaptations to exams and overcoming a preference for written exams compared to continuous assessment; better transitions to secondary school; a statutory requirement to have a curriculum for visually impaired young people in CfE; better career paths for Qualified Teacher of Children and Young People with Vision Impairment (QTVI); and teaching independent living skills for children and young people with visual impairment was noted.
Providing access to, and funding for, a range of professionals to support young people with disabilities or conditions was another theme. This could include speech therapists, education specialists who can advise parents who are involved in the education of children with disabilities, more multi-agency working and collaboration between education and healthcare authorities, and careers advisors working alongside health professionals to inform and support students with additional support needs to plan for their future.
In line with the overarching theme of focusing on the individual, there were calls for learners to have appropriate individualised plans to be in place which are up-to-date and followed by the staff they encounter throughout their learning journey. Specifically, another suggestion was for all children with a long-term condition, such as epilepsy, to have an individual healthcare plan which outlines the support they need to be safe and included, including key information about support and emergency contacts. Other suggestions included: noting the potential therapeutic value of art, music and outdoor learning; recognising that trips to specialist centres supporting young people with additional needs can be long and tiring in rural areas; and a call for more sex education in additional support or special needs schools.
Inclusion and accessibility
The importance of inclusion and providing appropriate education settings to support young people with disabilities, long-term conditions and neurodiverse young people was also noted. One strand of comments focused on inclusivity, for example recognising the potential for disabled and neurodiverse young people to have a lot to contribute, or inclusivity for children with hidden disabilities or undiagnosed disabilities. Another strand of comments centred on adaptations for those with physical disabilities or additional support needs, for example, ensuring wheelchair access, rooms on ground floors, appropriate playground equipment, and also ensuring play-based learning is inclusive and not ableist focused. This is in addition to calls for safe, nurture or wellbeing spaces noted earlier. There was a suggestion that disabled adults could advise on how to make settings more accessible.
Other suggestions included: having more placement opportunities for teachers to have a better understanding of ASN; considering how placing requests for children with additional support needs are handled, for example ensuring children are placed in the same school as siblings who can offer support, if this is appropriate; reviewing how mainstream schools can learn from the elements of specialist schools that children and parents often prefer to state schools; and for equitable opportunities in post school destinations, to ensure those with learning challenges and disabilities have positive options on leaving education.
"Embrace diversity including neurodevelopmental differences such as autism and ADHD. Don't send those kids away. They can be creative, inventive and an asset to your school if provided the right support. This goes for all flavours of diversity." - Parent
Race or ethnicity
Race and ethnicity was another commonly mentioned protected characteristic. Participants raised varied points about education to address the issues facing minority ethnic learners, teachers, families and those in the wider school community. Descriptions of an anti-racist education model included:
- a diverse and racially literate teaching workforce
- anti-racism and representation of different ethnicities in the curriculum
- improved racial literacy and creating a supportive and safe learning environment where ethnic minority pupils and parents have a voice, talk about race and racism, and influence decision-making
- sustainable approaches to tackling racist incidents and bullying
- support for implementing policies that support anti-racism in the education sector
Diverse and racially literate workforce
Having wider representation in the teaching profession was seen as beneficial to learners by providing teachers who can act as role models, share cultural or religious traditions they can identify with, and break down stereotypes about minority groups. It was also noted that a diverse workforce could help young people feel comfortable approaching teachers they thought had the racial literacy or cultural competency needed to deal with racism. There was also a suggestion for employing more teachers from different backgrounds who speak different languages. Participants noted that achieving this would require removing barriers to entry and career progression for ethnic minority teachers, including prejudice in recruitment, promotion, and staff retention.
There were also calls for more opportunities for educators to develop their racial literacy, including ensuring there is resource and time for high quality, meaningful and mandatory anti-racist professional learning and providing schools, teachers and school leadership with training on racial literacy, racial equality and anti-racism.
"There is a wealth of research showing that Black teachers and other workers with protected characteristics face greater barriers and discrimination in gaining promotion and pay progression than the generality of workers, and that both overt and covert instances of racism are a daily reality in workplaces… systemic organisational change is required in the education service to challenge these injustices." – NASUWT
"Parents participating in the focus groups also raised concerns over their children's achievement and successes at school. They discussed that teachers do not see the additional barriers, both in terms of cultural and linguistic challenges their children face. They argue that some teachers hold negative stereotypes about their children's abilities and so therefore use this to judge ability groupings… All teachers/educators need to challenge their underlying assumptions and stereotypes and hold higher expectations of BME children." – SAMEE
"There also needs to be more diversity in the hiring of more BAME teachers. Representation is so important. Young people need to see more "people like them" in professional roles to believe they can achieve and reach their potential." – Teacher
An anti-racist curriculum
A few participants highlighted issues with Scotland's existing curriculum, including:
- the lived experiences of ethnic minority children and their families are not reflected in the subjects and topics taught in school or experiences in early years
- a lack of diverse teaching resources, some of which reinforce negative stereotypes, means ethnic minority children cannot see themselves in the curriculum, struggle to find a sense of belonging in the classroom and feel disconnected from their learning
- that it makes Scotland appear mono-cultural, with outside perspectives regarded as an add-on
- that while some issues around racism and Black history are covered, this can be a negative experience for Black and ethnic minority young people if not done well
- celebrating diversity can often rely on stereotypes and stress differences rather than commonality
- that CfE's language on equality and inclusion is not sufficient to encourage teachers to choose to build anti-racist approaches into the curriculum
Given this, some participants outlined how the curriculum, particularly history and RME, could be improved. Most common were calls to decolonise the curriculum by teaching black and ethnic minority history which reflects the experiences of ethnic minority individuals, their influence on Scotland, and Scotland's role in the slave trade and colonisation. It was also suggested that the curriculum should help young people to develop a positive sense of racial identity.
Other points included ensuring the curriculum avoids re-traumatisation, introducing different teaching approaches to address linguistic and cultural diversity, ensuring advice provided through pastoral care and guidance is culturally sensitive and responsive to the needs of ethnic minority you people, and working with stakeholders such as museums or groups representing ethnic minorities to involve young people with lived experience or who have experienced racism to help develop resources. There were also a few calls to embed anti-racist principles in assessment, recognise the power dynamics involved, and for careers guidance and vocational learning which breaks down stereotypes.
"We're at a turning point where the views/prejudices of my parents' generation can be leapfrogged, so they don't exist. Where I had to unlearn lots of things or learn new things about racism etc hopefully [diversity] will just be the norm for our children." – Parent
"Children need to be exposed to a wide range of stories and cultures, so that they build empathy. It's important to encourage reading stories about/written by people of different ethnicities, of different social backgrounds, of different levels of ability, different genders and gender identities etc." – Parent
Improved racial literacy and open discussion
There were a small number of calls to improve racial literacy among young people and among society more generally. In relation to school, participants highlighted: the need for open discussion in class about racism; acknowledging the different cultures in a class and different languages being spoken to increase respect and tolerance for others; and ensuring everyone in education is aware of the institutionalised and systemic racism that people from ethnic minority backgrounds have been or are subjected to, and its impact on individuals as members of Scottish society.
More broadly, a few advocated for parents, families and communities to be engaged to develop and support racial and cultural literacy in education settings to create a strong sense of belonging in the school community and mechanisms to address racism. More education for parents from areas that are not ethnically diverse was also suggested.
"It was striking to note that every parent who participated in the focus groups raised the lack of engagement from schools. Parents stated clearly that there were not encouraged to support school trips or come into the schools to support learning or any other events. It is argued that children achieve more when they see their parents actively involved in the life of the school. This further disadvantages BME children's achievement." – SAMEE
Tackling racist bullying
Better practice on tackling racially motivated bullying in schools was requested by a few participants, given the impact of racism on health and wellbeing. This could include: engaging relevant stakeholders; providing advice and advocacy for young people who experience racism; and improved processes for recording and reporting data on prejudice-based bullying or incidents, possibly on a mandatory national database.
Wider support for anti-racist education
There was a feeling among a small number of participants that due to structural problems with the curriculum and competing priorities, anti-racist initiatives have been difficult to embed and are often limited to optional lunchtime clubs or optional subjects. There were therefore calls for: a stronger commitment to active anti-racist leadership to ensure educators are supported to implement innovative anti-racist actions that will have positive outcomes for learners across Scotland; and enhanced priority and resources to ensure the Scottish Government's commitment to anti-racism in education is sustainable and creates genuine, lasting change. There was a suggestion that the Welsh Government's work to implement and embed anti-racist initiatives in schools should be reviewed as an example.
A small number of participants considered the needs of refugees and asylum seekers. There were calls for: interpreters to be used to support new arrivals to Scotland; English lessons to be provided as needed; support, information and guidance to families arriving in Scotland to help them understand how the system works and who they can go to with questions; consideration to be given to education needs when making arrangements for refugees; for staff training on challenges faced by refugees and asylum seeker communities, with suggestions for developing programmes in collaboration with the third sector and those with lived experience; and to employ more skilled adult refugees in education settings and benefit from their perspectives. Concerns were raised that there is more support for European migrants and Ukrainian refugees than for those from elsewhere, and that allocation of funding and support for refugee and asylum seeker children may be affected by institutional discrimination and racism.
Better provision for those with English as an Additional Language (EAL), regardless of where in Scotland they live, including the use of translators, was also mentioned by a few. Other points included more support for lesser-taught languages such as Mandarin, Arabic, Polish, and BSL to help schools ensure the diversity of their language provision, and the potential role for language teachers in helping teach children about the wider world. It was also suggested that teachers make negative assumptions about a child's abilities when English is their second language, whereas being multilingual has cognitive benefits.
Other points related to race and ethnicity included: for education to be affordable for all ethnicities; considering the promotion of cultural food in the canteen and add more food options that might appeal to children from other countries or cultures; prioritising the impacts of COVID-19 on missed education, learning, and mental health of vulnerable groups such as young people from underprivileged BME communities; and a note that exclusion is a key issue from a race perspective, with Gypsy/Traveller pupils excluded at a higher rate as well as Black and Caribbean young people.
Comments related to sex as a protected characteristic covered multiple themes, which combined call for a whole system approach to embedding gender equality into everyday practice in schools. Particularly prevalent were calls for a curriculum which counters gender stereotypes, and where young people learn about healthy relationships and to challenge attitudes which result in sexism, misogyny and violence against women and girls. The impact of sexism in education on wider society was also noted.
One of the most common themes about gender equality was for equal opportunities for boys and girls throughout education, including sports and extra-curricular activities. In particular, participants noted the need to discuss and challenge behaviour and attitudes which reinforce gender stereotypes. This would ensure that young people are allowed to develop their own sense of self, pursue their aspirations, and are not given stereotypical or outdated advice about potential study or career paths. For example, encouraging girls to choose subjects like maths or coding and to pursue STEM careers, with boys encouraged to consider careers in childcare or the creative arts. Another suggestion was for more balanced opportunities such as courses in hairdressing and barbering, or for unisex sports teams or teams for boys and girls to be offered in all sports.
A few participants called for all children's views to be included when building a gender-equal education system; there was a concern that young women are less frequently consulted, and that schools are structured around traditional views, particularly about discipline and obedience, rather than empowerment and collaboration.
Other points related to gender equality included: for education to encourage the full participation of girls and young women; increase their confidence and address a decline in girls' attendance at secondary school; for educators to be trained in gender and identity issues; for more varied opportunities for physical activity for girls and having separate boy and girl P.E. time in primary school to encourage girls to continue with sport; and a concern that the current education system is denying girls female-only spaces. There were also a small number of comments calling for more male role models in schools and focused recruitment on males, and to support teenage boys who are unsure what they want to do when leaving school and may then fall through the net.
Healthy relationships, sexism and misogyny
PSE lessons were highlighted as valuable in helping young people learn about sex education, consent and other issues affecting them in the wider world. There were calls for these lessons to be more engaging and supportive, and for dedicated time for sex education, with boys and girls taught together so that everyone has the same information. It was felt this could help sexual health education be LGBTI+ inclusive and remove stigma associated with women-centred health such as periods and menopause. Ensuring sex and relationship education is not just delivered from a male perspective was also noted.
More specifically, a few argued that education should eradicate stereotypes which endanger women and that every school should have a prevention approach which teaches children about reducing sexual assault and violence against women and girls. Suggestions for how to achieve this included: having a zero tolerance approach to misogyny in schools; that boys should be included in assemblies and events which focus on the rights of women and girls, as their exclusion suggests they do not have a role to play in reducing sexism and misogyny; more education for boys about consent, pornography, and the challenges of social media contributing to misogynistic behaviour; and complementing this education with approaches such as the Equally Safe at School whole-school approach and Mentors in Violence Prevention peer education programme. One organisation noted that, in the context of sexual and gender-based violence, individual-level supports must be trauma-informed, survivor-centred and avoid victim blaming messages.
Education, sexism and society
Comments about the impact of sexism in education on wider society included:
- providing strong wraparound childcare as women are still disproportionately impacted by the structure of the school day
- schools require a better understanding of modern families and should stop treating women as if they should be at home and available at any time they are needed, or should understand that grandparents may be responsible while parents work
- that most teaching staff are women who are struggling to meet the demands of a constantly changing workplace; aspects of the gender pay gap could be addressed by placing a higher pay value on the emotional labour contribution of teaching staff (predominantly women) to raise their pay in line with senior management staff (predominantly men)
- improving gender representation in traditionally male-dominated and higher-earning STEM roles could have positive indirect effects on reducing the gender pay gap
- for social subjects to encompass issues of gender inequality and teach young people about the importance of political engagement, as well as the UK voting systems, encouraging them to vote in the future; this is linked to helping young women understand the power of their vote
- prevention of violence against women and girls creates better wellbeing outcomes, as fewer children are exposed to the trauma of witnessing violence
Other comments in relation to sex as a protected characteristic included:
- addressing a link between gender and additional support needs, for example, autistic girls are far less likely to be identified due to diagnosis being based on autistic traits typically displayed by boys
- for continued work on gender equality by teams such the Improving Gender Balance and Equality group, and equalities teams within Education Scotland and the SQA and or the recommendations of the Gender Equality Taskforce in Education and Learning to be integrated into educational reform
- addressing period poverty and covering time lost due to periods with Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA)
- understanding intersectionality between gender and sexual orientation and gender reassignment, experience and impact on ethnic minority women of racism and discrimination from staff and other pupils, and between gender and poverty, with young women who live within areas of high deprivation having less opportunity at school to take part in certain subjects or extra-curricular activity
- consider gender influences on mental health stigma and discrimination
Religion or belief
Comments on religion or belief were less frequent and covered four main strands: to promote a greater understanding of all faiths, and none; to recognise the contribution of different faiths to society and education; to allow religious schools to teach within their worldview; and conversely to end any association between schools and religion.
Participants made various suggestions to improve knowledge and help young people be informed and respectful of other beliefs. These included: for Religious and Moral Education (RME) to teach about all religions, and none, rather than being delivered from a Christian viewpoint; trips to faith buildings and diverse faith organisations; having diverse events and festivals to learn about other cultures and religions; and assemblies where leaders of places of worship can come into school and speak and build connections.
The role of Church of Scotland representatives on local authority education committees was highlighted as a bridge between councils and schools, as was their role in wider community support and support for delivering parts of the curriculum. Similarly, work by school chaplains and parish priests was also noted as integral to Catholic schools in helping to support the development and wellbeing of children.
Some comments, typically from Catholic schools, advocated the continued provision of Catholic schools and education built on the values of the Catholic church so that children's spiritual needs are not neglected. These participants argued that Catholic values help support all areas of a young person's development and will help them navigate a changing world. Participants also noted that wellbeing within Catholicism is not separate physical and mental wellbeing, but a holistic approach to caring for all aspects of the body, including spiritual, emotional and intellectual, and that young people can be supported in prioritising and nurturing relationships by actively listening and keeping Christ at the centre of their relationships. It was also suggested, however, that if denominational schools remain that they should be open and welcoming e.g. a Catholic school, not a school for Catholics.
Conversely, others felt there should be less or no link between religion and education. Some stated that a religious education or a focus on religion is not helpful and called for an end to the dominance of church and Christianity in schools. Specifically, there was a call for a non-religious character to be applied to all schools. It was noted that the rights of the child to withdraw from collective worship without parental permission are not recognised or empowered in Scotland and while parents have a right to withdraw their children from RME, this is not always respected in practice, and some parents are unaware of their rights.
A few suggested that lessons on relationships and sex education should have input from parents to ensure they reflect individual cultures and religions.
Gender reassignment and sexual orientation
Most of the small number of comments related to this protected characteristic called for LGBTI+ inclusive education. This would involve schools being LGBTI+ friendly, LGBTI+ awareness training, covering Pride and sexualities and what they mean, for LGBTI+ issues to be included in the curriculum, and training for staff in LGBTI+ education so they have confidence to teach it. A few concerns were noted such as LGBTI+ young people feeling supported by their peers but finding their preferred identities dismissed by teaching staff, and a perceived disconnect between outward shows of support e.g. flying the Pride flag, compared to hearing derogatory remarks which go unchallenged in school.
Other suggestions included: having age appropriate relationship, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP) education reflecting diversity and LGBTI+ issues; that PSE should be taught by specialist, trained teachers or third sector organisations so that young people can be well informed about sexuality, gender and consent; having support groups run by people who are knowledgeable in their area such as LGBTI+ groups to give people a wider range of opportunities; and creating a dedicated fund for initiatives to educate, prevent and address LGBTI+ bullying and discrimination in schools.
While there were a few calls to educate children at a young age about LGBTI+ issues and different types of families, as noted earlier there were also comments from some participants calling for discussion of LGBTI+ issues to be excluded from the curriculum.
Within the main analysis, participants generally recognised the importance of early years education and believed that play is a fundamental part of learning that should continue beyond early years. Beyond this, there were few comments directly related to age as a protected characteristic and little consistency across the points raised. These included:
- having mixed age classes to develop a wider school community
- ensuring young people have adequate time to experience STEM subjects
- adaptations for teenagers whose brains are reconfiguring at a difficult phase
- engagement must ensure that the views of the youngest children are heard, including non-verbal babies and infants in early years settings
- early introduction of health and wellbeing in early years or primary education
- piloting flexible age for entry into and departure from education to help those who develop and learn at different speeds, especially those born prematurely
- supporting children and young people with physical disabilities, mental health difficulties and/or addiction with employability and education up until the age of 25 to avoid a cliff edge of support ending at 18
- the need for national arrangements that support local authorities in providing school places for those beyond statutory school age (this was raised in a group in the context of families who foster children from diverse ethnic backgrounds)
- that there should be access to a formal education system throughout a person's life, to adhere to the principles of social justice
- on the issue of transitions during the learning journey, a few noted that the cohort of young people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic might need particular support
Other equalities issues
Understanding the intersectionality of protected characteristics was noted by a few participants. They highlighted that certain individuals will have needs linked to multiple and intersecting inequalities or circumstances, such as those with additional support needs, care experienced children and young people, those with insecure immigration status, those who speak English as a second language, those living in poverty, and those with experience of the criminal justice system. Participants therefore advocated for a holistic approach to ensure students get the right support at the right time. Greater mental health risks and stigma and barriers to accessing support was noted in relation to these groups.
Care experienced young people
Comments about the needs of care experienced young people, including those in kinship care, considered how any reform can help the implementation and realisation of The Promise and policies and guidance which support a desire for higher aspirations for care experienced young people. Suggestions included: adopting whole-school approaches that ensure all young people learn about care experience in an age-appropriate way, ensuring care experience and corporate parenting are mandatory parts of teacher training, and consultation with groups representing kinship carers.
Calls for more support for this group focused on creating trauma-informed teaching staff and mental health professionals with a better understanding of the impact of early childhood trauma and its associated conditions, such as Foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and hypervigilance. It was suggested that therapeutic education could benefit all children, not just those who have experienced trauma or who are living in traumatic environments. Given the challenges faced by this group, it was felt that any review should focus on changing the support offered to this group, rather than changing the expectations of what care experienced young people can achieve.
Gaelic speakers and Gaelic Medium Education (GME)
The discussion included comments for and against Gaelic and Gaelic Medium Education. Those against felt funding for Gaelic schools could be better used elsewhere. Supporters felt Gaelic is part of the equalities agenda and that a rights-based approach would embed GME and ensure it has status and resources equal to English Medium Education (EME).
A few participants provided detailed responses about how Scotland could make further progress in GME. A key theme was workforce development, including: the need for greater staffing in GME schools; better, nationwide teacher recruitment and training in GME, including comprehensive ITE and subsequent CLPL and mentoring; and increasing skills in immersion strategies. Another theme was ensuring the curriculum allows exploration of Gaelic language and culture, with learning resources and support available in Gaelic and, ideally, originating in Gaelic and not just translated from EME.
More generally, there were calls for more Gaelic in schools, including: every child having the right to GME in early years education; for more progress to be made on teaching Gaelic as a modern language in EME; for immersion in Gaelic through Gaelic extra-curricular provision; incentives for taking exams in Gaelic; and improving certification in Gaelic. It was suggested that more exposure to Gaelic would create a virtuous circle of greater awareness, leading to more interest in GME as a profession. Other comments included ensuring Gaelic representation at all levels of education and education agencies, as well as many of the overarching themes seen through the lens of GME, for example, the need for more ASN support in GME, listening to young people in GME and what they want to learn, increased access to digital technology, and resourcing.
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