Reform must go well beyond education agencies 

Commissioner responds to proposed Education (Scotland) Bill

Cartoon graphic of a red megaphone with waves coming out of it

Nicola Killean, Children and Young People’s Commissioner responds to the proposed Education (Scotland) Bill, urging Scottish Government to involve children in whole system reform.  

Since I became Commissioner in August last year, children and young people have consistently told me that they want their experience of education to be improved. It’s an issue that has come up time and time again. It’s a priority for children and young people which makes it a priority for me.  

Too many children and young people’s needs are not being met in our current education system and this particularly impacts disabled children and children with additional support needs who are being routinely failed. We know that opportunities available through education are not equitable across Scotland. 

The proposed changes to educational agencies within the Education (Scotland) Bill is a step forward in Scotland’s overdue education reform process but much more needs to be done to address where the system is not working for children. I urge the Scottish Government to take a comprehensive approach to reforming the whole education system, to push for radical change to the way children and young people experience education and to involve them every step of the way. 

Children and young people are the experts in how they experience their learning, and they must be meaningfully and systematically involved in education reform. There must also be a special effort made to include children and young people currently furthest away from education. 

The current problems in the system will not be solved by agency reform alone. Next month, the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) will be incorporated into Scots law. This is a watershed moment in children’s rights. Within the UNCRC is a clear promise to all children of an education that develops them to their fullest potential; mind, body, personality and talents. This should be the fundamental purpose of our education system. 

The new Inspectorate has a unique opportunity to reframe a model around children’s human rights and ensure that children and young people shape the way in which inspectors listen to and asses the educational issues that affect them most at a local, regional and national level. 

The Scottish Government must be clear on how it will deliver on the holistic and ambitious reform that children, young people and practitioners need to drive meaningful and sustainable change. Of course, during every part of the reform process, the Scottish Government should communicate directly with children and young people to explain any changes and be clear with them about the positive difference they should feel in their day-to-day experiences as a result.  

This is an opportunity to fundamentally change the education system and make it work for all children and young people. This reform is essential to ensure that children’s rights are realised, and this must extend way beyond the reform of national agencies. 

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