What are schools for?
For me, they are there to help everyone achieve their full potential, regardless of whether young people are academic or whether they want to be more hands-on.
The focus should be on every young person, with schools investing in every child. Schools must do the best they can for young people so they can be the best they can be. But schools are also there to provide the next generation with the skills our economy needs.
Some schools are fit for purpose and address the key priorities but meeting this goal very much depends on the leadership of the school. Where there is a strong, passionate leader at the helm, the school will improve.
To drive improvement, schools need leaders with determination; leaders who are able and capable of taking up the challenges; leaders who are a model for others; and leaders who have the ability to change the mindsets of teachers to be receptive to new ideas, methods and practices, for instance being able to use technologies to support and enhance learning. If schools do not have strong leadership, they will not improve.
Parents must have trust in the head teacher's judgment. The best head teachers want to provide the best school experiences leading to better life experiences for all young people.
There must be investment in young people; not just financial, but investment in time, and teachers investing in and engaging with every young person.
It is not about the teaching but about the learning, particularly about understanding; teachers developing in young people analytical skills as well as practical opportunities to learn.
Teachers should be able to adjust what they teach to spark interest and a desire to learn in every child. This is what I mean by investment. Young people should be able to walk into first year and leave at the end of their school career achieving all they can, leaving with the best possible qualifications possible. If we do not do this for every child, if every child does not reach their potential, we have failed whether as a parent council, as parents or as a school.
Young people and their parents want to belong to a thriving community. In these communities there is a strong sense of belonging. Communities want to be proud of their school. Schools must build that pride.
Involving the wider community in the life of the school benefits all learners, for instance by involvement in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Project and a range of voluntary activities that can build confidence and contribute to achievement.
The experiences gained beyond the classroom can change young people's lives, open up the world, opening up minds, and inspire through the opportunity to meet and work with role models.
Promoting high attendance, to give opportunities for all to learn, is also critically important. This will transform lives.
Schools can have the biggest impact on young people by building self-confidence, self-belief and trust, with everyone believing they are worth it, particularly in areas of Scotland that have suffered from the loss of industry and jobs. Building respect for others is also about trust. Respect is a two-way process: if young people are respected, they will gain respect for others.
Consideration should be given to the future of every child. Schools and colleges should work together to provide meaningful courses and pathways; schools should be turning out a generation of individuals who can think for themselves and should shape a positive future for every child.
The focus should also be on the long-term needs of young people rather than short term goals and on the potential in every child.
We should be laying a foundation so schools can evolve as society evolves. The future leaders, whether in politics or business, need an academic framework they can use and adjust based on their ideas and needs.
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