Exciting times ahead as pupils return to school

Education vice convener Cllr Alison Dickie discusses some of the exciting developments taking place as the new school year begins.

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to school we go! Some happy, some grumpy, but whatever, it’s back to the vital task of ensuring our schools work for every single young person across this city.  And, we’re off to a good start as the school bell kicks off this 18/19 session.

But let’s begin with laminators! Back in my teaching days, I could be found bent over a near exploding laminator at this point in the year, and in a feverish pitch to churn out resources for the new class.  We didn’t have a great relationship, the laminator and me, but it would produce shiny visuals for our learning wall…such as ‘class charter’.

Across many of our schools, one of the first lessons will involve teachers and pupils discussing the UN Rights of the Child, and together, agreeing the articles and values that will shape their class in the year ahead.  The right to a quality education is one, but the level of that quality can be limited by the breaching of other rights…to be safe, fed, healthy, cared for, or to have a home.

Our city wide charter is to support every young person in reaching their fullest potential, and schools play a major role in the preventative and inclusive agenda to ensure those rights.  As such, they need properly resourced and supported.

So, as we begin this new session, we’re rolling out more of those best possible starts.  Already, 25 nurseries provide 1140 hours for 1,000 children, and from this month, a further 21 new settings will support another 1,000. In addition there will be more nursery classrooms for Leith Primary and St John’s Primary, and a brand new Tynecastle Nursery due to open in September.

We’re providing new learning environments to reflect the amazing learning taking within, with nine rising roll extensions now opening their doors for the first time, and a brand new St John’s RC Primary too.  Construction work is also underway on the new Queensferry HS, and in October, we’ll unveil the initial designs for the replacement HS for Castlebrae.  This, and work over the summer holidays to improve the quality of 50 schools and nurseries as part of the £119m agreed to upgrade the estate.

Lying at the heart of our charter is fighting inequality and our One in Five project work continues to tackle child poverty.  Through our new Pupil Equity Framework, the aim is to reduce poverty related stigma and the cost of the school day, and initiatives include swap shops; income maximisation to support families who are entitled to benefits; an increased uniform grant of £100; holiday hunger projects; and from today, the provision of Hey Girl sanitary products across every school…because I will never forget the stains of poverty and lack of dignity experienced by one young girl.

Ahead, our work includes reviewing our support for young people with disabilities; ensuring a mental health point of contact across all of our schools; strengthening our anti-bullying policy; addressing hate crime; supporting care experienced young people in schools through our new care experienced Participation Officers and Champions; and shaping our child friendly city.

But for now, heigh-ho and my best wishes to all our wonderful staff and pupils.







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