Deputy First Minister launches new programme to help close attainment gap during Bellshill visit

John Swinney shares a joke with pupils at Bellshill Academy during last week's visit
John Swinney shares a joke with pupils at Bellshill Academy during last week's visit

Deputy First Minister john Swinney was in Bellshill last week to launch a pilot scheme to help schools and youth work organisations work together to close the attainment gap in education.

The Youth Work and Schools Partnership programme will offer young people the opportunity to develop relationships with trusted adults and provide learning opportunities outwith the home and school environment.

Part of the wider £750 million Scottish Attainment Challenge, the programme will be delivered by YouthLink Scotland, with up to £324,000 Scottish Government funding over three years.

Mr Swinney met with pupils at Bellshill Academy and young people who attend Bellshill and Mossend YMCA.

He said: “Every child must be able to fulfil their potential and our work on closing the attainment gap does not end at the school gates. Youth work is an incredibly valuable influence on the life chances for many young people, particularly those affected by poverty and inequality or who are disengaged with education.

“Teachers already do what they can to close the attainment gap, but an adult who is not a teacher can sometimes provide a different and welcome perspective for young people. This programme will help deliver our vision for excellence and equity for all by allowing more young people to experience the benefits of youth work and the opportunities it can bring.”

Tim Frew, chief executive of YouthLink Scotland, added: “The youth work sector plays a key role in encouraging and supporting all young people to realise their ambitions and aspirations through learning. Youth workers working alongside formal education colleagues contribute to lifelong and life-rich learning opportunities for young people - often enabling them to overcome barriers. This work takes place after school, in the evenings, weekends and school holidays as well as during the school day.

“This funding acknowledges youth workers as effective partners in closing the poverty-related attainment gap for our children and young people. I am delighted that the Scottish Government is supporting us to build the capacity of youth work and schools partnerships and understand the impact of this work.”

Bellshill Academy head teacher Jodie McGraw said: “We believe that school is for everyone and youth work plays a pivotal role in ensuring this. The young people and community benefit from our strong partnership working which is a key to our success.”