This article appears as part of the Lessons to Learn newsletter.

Welcome to the first of what I hope will be many editions of The Herald’s new education newsletter: Lessons to Learn.

Each week we’ll be diving into the latest developments in Scottish education to help you stay right up to date.

Sometimes that might mean giving you a bit more depth and context for a story we’ve already published, or taking you behind the scenes to show you how a particular investigation was carried out.

On other occasions, we’ll explain some of the bigger, more controversial issues in a way that isn’t always possible in the pages of the newspaper, or do a bit of fact-checking and rhetoric-breaking when the latest dodgy claim makes it into a politician’s press release.

And there will definitely be times when we’ll be able to highlight some of the work we have coming up. This weekend, for example, we’re going to be focusing on a grassroots campaign that has managed to change the law and make a measurable difference for young people and families across the country.

Over Saturday and Sunday, we’ll be publishing several pieces exploring the story of the Give Them Time campaign – looking at the people behind it, their demands for change, and the impact they’ve already had. Don’t miss it!

Exclusive: Glasgow’s Advanced Higher Hub to be scrapped

Today we can reveal that a ground-breaking programme that helped disadvantaged young people into higher education is to be shut down.

The Advanced Higher Hub at Glasgow Caledonian University is the latest victim of funding cuts at both the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council.

Established in 2013, the Hub allowed students from across the city the chance to study Advanced Higher subjects not offered in their own schools. The programme achieved pass rates of over 90% and boosted the number of Advanced Higher students from the most deprived parts of Glasgow.

However, funding from the Scottish Government and the local authority are to be withdrawn, meaning that the Hub will cease operations at the end of the current academic year.

Read more:

Exclusive: Scotland's Advanced Higher hub to be scrapped amid government and council cuts

New Year, Same Situation?

With this being the start of a new year, a fair bit of the last week or so has been spent speaking to various different people and planning out our coverage for the months ahead.

As part of that process, I asked various teachers how they felt about the coming year – what were the biggest challenges facing Scottish education, and what sorts of actions should the government and councils be taking to address them?

A common theme in the responses was the need for genuine reform in Scottish education, and the feeling that the current government doesn’t seem to be all that serious about the prospect. The need to actually celebrate the work of young people in Scotland was also raised, as was a demand for greater respect for the professional from politicians.

One teacher was very clear on what is needed: reduce the workload, employ more staff, deliver the 90 minutes of extra non-contact time, remove the burdens of non-teaching tasks, and tackle the retention issue. The point about non-contact time is one you hear again and again from teachers who were promised the reduction by a government that is now unable or unwilling to delivery.

Those concerns were echoed by an expert from one of Scotland’s initial teacher education (or ‘teaching training’) courses, who told me that the absolute priority has to be on addressing the problems currently causing a “teacher recruitment and retention crisis”.

And another response, this one from an experienced faculty head, seemed to me to be particularly ominous: “I would just love to not have to worry about how I’m financing the day to day running of my classrooms.”

And of course, there were plenty of demands to get a grip on the problem of violence, aggression and disruption in schools. Expect to see plenty more about that in the months to come.

Read more:

Analysis: Report on school violence must be a wake-up call for Scotland

In Case You Missed It…

Earlier this week the Scottish Government confirmed plans to cut 1200 university places. Finance secretary Shona Robinson said that the places had been paid for with “some of the Covid monies” and that, since that funding stream has now ended, the places would have to go too.

It sounds pretty straightforward, but it rang a wee bell somewhere at the back of my head. I decided to do a little digging and soon discovered that the government had been warned to make these places permanent more than two years ago – but did not do so.

Back in 2021, the fourth annual report of the Commissioner for Fair Access warned that if the places weren’t secured for future years then universities would “ultimately be forced to reduce first-year intakes”. That is precisely what will now happen, with more than 1000 Scottish students losing out as a result.

Read more:

Robison reveals plan to cut 1200 university places for Scottish students

Read more:

Analysis: Scottish Government failed to react to threat to free university places

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And finally…

I’d like to welcome my colleague Garrett Stell, who has been working with The Herald for a while now but will be spending even more of his time on the Scottish education beat.

Garrett’s background means that he often brings a new perspective to our journalism – he was, after all, born and raised across the Atlantic in North Carolina – and I’m really looking forward to working closely with him this year to bring our readers the very best education coverage in Scotland.