IN Scotland we want our young people to get the most from their education: to be literate, numerate, keen to learn, creative, healthy and happy; to have the widest experience possible, in sport, art, drama, music, outdoor education; to become well-rounded individuals, able to take care of themselves and contribute to society; and to have successful futures. And we expect our education system to deliver all of that.

However our education system cannot possibly provide all that alone. It needs help. There is a huge number of third sector organisations in Scotland currently sitting outside our education system who want to help, indeed do help, provide those wide experiences. Alongside are trusts, foundations and philanthropists willing to provide financial support.

All over Scotland there are examples of highly effective, productive collaborations between the public and third sector, where young people are gaining skills and experiences they would otherwise be unable to access. These may be in music, outdoor education, additional languages but also in core aspects of education where a charity is providing their only educational input. The potential for expanding the number of such partnerships has barely been tapped.

Too often the third sector is unaware of where they might be able to help, while government, local authorities and schools are equally oblivious to the external support that might be available. More targeted information on collaborative experiences and opportunities is clearly required.

Another major hurdle to effective collaboration is the frequent reluctance of the public sector to accept help from the outside. Our system is risk-averse, conformity is valued, and we still try to solve yesterday’s problems, instead of today’s or tomorrow’s. We are unable to look out, learn from others and apply that learning. Above all, those running our education system are afraid to cede any project control. The concept of an equal partnership is alien to the mindset of too many civil servants.

We know what we want to achieve and we know we are not managing this but we don’t know what’s out there and who can help. To expand collaboration and partnership between public and third sector organisations, both sides must be willing to approach any relationship as one of equals with shared objectives.

In the report “An Ecosystem: What We Need For Effective Collaboration In Scotland”, published by Reform Scotland, I set out two specific recommendations I believe could improve the potential for such partnerships, as well as encourage the sharing of good practice.

First, we need to commission a national voluntary organisation to map all third sector organisations currently partnering with local and national authorities signposting services.

Secondly, government departments, local authorities, schools and other relevant state sector participants should be required to nominate an existing senior member of staff to be accountable for recording and promoting appropriate third sector relationships.

If we stand any chance of having the education system we want, and need, now more than ever, we must to get everyone on the inside and create not a system but an ecosystem.

Gillian Hunt is an educational consultant