An average primary school child spends approximately 14% of their year in school.

Does learning stop for the other 86% of the time? Do we accept that school is part of the education journey and not the whole?

According to the African proverb, it takes a whole village to raise a child. Education starts at home and in the community with schools providing skills, knowledge and opportunities that extend and enhance the experiences young people have access to out of school. For this reason it is important that any school curriculum is uniquely designed with the needs of the young people and the community at its heart. In Highland, our Learning Policy acknowledges that many of the values and needs of our local communities will be shared across the region and, quite possibly, nationally and internationally.

However, there will be a difference in emphasis and content, reflecting local circumstances, resulting in a more relevant curriculum. In order to support our young people to take greater responsibility for their own learning, we have first to ensure that they are emotionally ready to learn. It is crucial that we support our young people to become emotionally literate. If they are feeling unhappy, insecure or troubled in any way we cannot expect them to be effective learners. Equipping young people with the skills they need to be able to recognise and manage their own feelings and the feelings of those around them is an essential skill which will ensure they are much better prepared socially and emotionally to learn and to continue learning in the future.

The Highland Learning Policy highlights four key principles which aim to encourage young people to take greater responsibility for their learning:

l Engagement: Motivating young people by providing a clear purpose for engaging in their learning, nurturing self-motivation, challenging, praising and rewarding along the way.

l Participation: Young people taking part in the learning process by taking an active role in decision-making and choices about their learning, contributing to planning, conducting self and peer-assessment, leading when possible and confident enough to ask for help.

l Dialogue: Young people discussing where they are in their learning, how they have been and can be successful and what their next steps in the learning process are. They need the opportunity to question, answer, suggest, support and challenge ideas in a secure and respectful classroom environment, allowing the children to feel confident and comfortable to make and learn from mistakes.

l Thinking: Young people should be given the chance to develop critical and creative thinking skills, questioning and investigating the truth about themselves and the world around them as well as imagining, expressing and exploring possibilities without limits to ambition.

As teachers and life-long learners we can act as role models by using effective questioning in the classroom, making thinking explicit and taking time to reflect on, evaluate and improve our own practice. Through planned classroom practice, these principles will ultimately encourage young people to take greater responsibility for their learning, to become resilient, resourceful and reflective people who can face the challenges of the future.

The Curriculum for Excellence provides an opportunity to create confident individuals, effective contributors, responsible citizens and successful learners but, at the end of the day, it is a curriculum outlining suggested outcomes and experiences. It is the mindset, methodology and motivation within each school that will help make it a reality.

I want young people to be happy, to respect each other and to try their best and to be given a chance to shine in and celebrate their own areas of strength without being slaves to external criteria. They need to focus on the joy and process of learning and to celebrate the effort involved not the end result.