Youth work and education has a "renewed collective mission" to improve outcomes for young people
Former head teacher Lorna Harvey explains why youth work and formal education now have a renewed collective mission to improve outcomes for children and young people impacted by poverty.
This is an exciting time to be part of Scottish education. The refreshed Scottish Attainment Challenge, launched in March, provides us with a renewed collective mission to use education to improve outcomes for children and young people impacted by poverty, with a focus on tackling the poverty-related attainment gap. It places an even stronger emphasis on the importance of partnership working and “collective agency”, recognising that schools alone cannot close the gap.
I am wholeheartedly in agreement. Partnership working can provide enhanced opportunities for learning - no matter what age or stage the learner is at. I have experienced this as a classroom teacher, head teacher and now in my current role as an Attainment Advisor. School staff and youth workers have different relationships with young people. They bring complementing skills and approaches to learning. By working together, we can better support and improve outcomes with the young people in our care.
Working in partnership should not be a tick box exercise. It should start by coming together with a clear focus on improving outcomes for learners. I believe that working in collaboration, with a shared vision, is very important and needs to be carefully considered from the outset. In my experience, teachers/education practitioners and youth workers both want positive outcomes for young people and working together can only ensure a strengthened approach to this.
My role as an Attainment Advisor is to have a relentless focus on closing the poverty-related attainment gap in Scotland. I strive to contribute to this at national and local level. An increasing focus of my work is supporting partnership working between schools and youth workers. My work with a local authority includes facilitating and contributing to discussions about the value of such partnership approaches and working alongside colleagues to make sure the focus is always on the impact for young people. This can take various forms, including attainment and achievement, and should be underpinned by attention to health and wellbeing. I have learned a lot from my youth work colleagues from partnership working including different approaches to engaging young people in learning and gaining insight into how the youth work sector works and the principles underpinning this.
I’ve been working with YouthLink Scotland and Education Scotland colleagues to enhance supports for partnership, across the system. This includes supporting practitioners to develop a shared language to work with young people. A national conversation was held to support cross-sector dialogue and the Lost in Translation follow-up resource is now available. I was surprised at how much I learned about the misconceptions we can mistakenly reinforce through our use of vocabulary across sectors. I have learned the importance of listening and finding out what terminology and vocabulary is used to support approaches to youth work and endeavour to compliment this with educational language.
I am also involved in a national project within ES, which is concerned with supporting Attainment Advisors (AAs) to develop their knowledge and understanding of the importance of partnership working between schools/formal education settings and CLD partners. Again, collaborative working with our CLD officers is vital. The project team I work with have created an online space to highlight CLD resources and publications and to engage in professional discussion about partnership approaches. We have much to learn from each other. The team includes AAs and a range of CLD colleagues who together created an action plan of how to go about this piece of work. This took time as it was important to plan collectively. Learning sessions have been arranged with input and participation from both AAs and CLD Officers, including our CLD HMI colleagues and Senior Regional Advisor, Opportunities for professional dialogue and sharing of effective practice are also being developed. At this point I cannot say what will happen next- I would have to consult with my colleagues and work together to ensure success.
I’m delighted to continue working alongside YouthLink Scotland to support youth work and school collaboration through their SAC national programme. Alongside schools, youth work improves the wellbeing, readiness to learn and educational outcomes of children and young people. Collaboration at all levels of the system will be vital to deliver a truly rights-based approach to learning for our children and young people. One where each individual has the support and opportunity to reach their full potential, regardless of background or circumstance.