Beyond the classroom

web003John Swinney, Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, talks about the key role youth work has in helping to close the attainment gap.

It is vital that all of Scotland’s children and young people have a fair chance to flourish. Youth work makes a significant contribution to this: put simply, it helps to change lives. I am always humbled by stories from young people and practitioners which demonstrate the real life impact of youth work.

Youth work and community learning and development takes place across all our communities, helping young people to make positive choices as they emerge into adulthood by building their confidence, skills and capacity for further learning and employability.

The phenomenal growth in the completion of youth awards is a real sign of youth work’s success.  Since the Awards Network was established in 2008, participation and completion of awards has grown by 273% with over 73,000 awards completed in 2014-15 alone. That success is down to the talents and skills of thousands of youth workers, many of them volunteers, some of them young people, investing their time to help our young people be all they can be.

Government plays its part too. Scotland’s youth work strategy – ‘Our ambitions for improving the life chances of young people in Scotland’ – connects  with other key policy areas, especially in education.  That contribution was recognised by the OECD in its recent review of Scottish  education – connecting schools with learning in the community, and out-of-school life in general; promoting healthy lifestyles and helping to tackle health inequalities; and engaging families and communities in our education system.

Youth work also has a role to play in transferring good practice in informal and community learning approaches into schools to help close the attainment gap between children from the most and least deprived communities.  And as a partner in Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce, youth work can help to increase the range of pathways available to young people to further learning, training and skills development.

No sector plays a more significant role in helping young people to realise their rights and engage in our democracy. One of youth work’s great strengths is the opportunities it gives young people to get involved in social action, volunteering and decision-making in their communities.

We all have a responsibility to make young people’s rights a reality. I am proud of the role that an SNP Government has played, ensuring 16 and 17 year olds now have a say in our democratic process  and helping young people’s voices be heard on matters which affect them.

Young people are leading the design, shape and focus of the Year of Young People in 2018. Their views and experience  are also helping to inform the best approaches to design, create and lead a fairer Scotland. And all this engagement reinforces what some of us already know – we can learn much from listening to Scotland’s young people.

Indeed, I want Scotland to be a country that loves to learn and where learning is lifelong and life wide: youth work has a key role to play in helping us all, but especially our young people, achieve this.

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