A Blueprint for Faireness

The final report of the Commission for Widening Access was published today. The Commission was set up by the Scottish Government to advise on the steps necessary to achieve their ambition that a child born today in one of Scotland’s most deprived communities will, by the time they leave school have the same chance of entering university as a child born in our of the least deprived communities.


The report identifies 34 recommendations around a number of key themes:-

  • the creation of a Commissioner for Fair Access and the publication of a Framework for Fair Access
  • Identifying and sharing good practice should focus on what works and what provides a coherent and comprehensive offer to learners
  • more flexible, joined up transitions between sectors
  • bridging programmes to be expanded nationally
  • all institutions need to engage strongly with articulation, building upon best practice models already in place  


    GCU College Connect

  • separate entry requirements for the most disadvantaged learners to university should be set by creating access thresholds and an independent review should be undertaken of non-academic elements of the admissions process to ensure they are nor unfairly penalising some students
  • Admissions and university ranking should not be penalised as as result
  • Learners should be supported through early intervention, the delivery of academically based programmes by schools and universities and a more co-ordinated, tailored offer of information, advice and guidance
  • access to key subjects which enables access to higher education should be developed between local authorities, colleges and universities
  • Student finance is a key area where clear, accurate information needs to be provided to learners and their families. Research should also be commissioned on how how student finance impacts on the participation of disadvantaged learners in higher education
  • Care experienced learners, who meet the access threshold, should be entitled to an offer of a place at university. In addition students with a care experience should be given a non-repayable bursary and a more flexible package of student support
  • The Access and Retention Fund should be reviewed and the Outcome Agreement process should indicate how core funding is being used to support access
  • Existing regulatory frameworks should be enhanced to drive forward progress in embedding fair access
  • Better use of data to support fair access by tracking learners and sharing data should be undertaken by the Scottish Government , including bodies such as local authorities, schools, UCAS and SAAS
  • A set of measures should be identified which includes SIMD, but also takes into account an individual’s income circumstances and their school environment

Mental Health and Wellbeing among adolescents in Scotland

An Official Statistics Publication for Scotland

One of the most important findings is the striking difference in results for 15 year old girls in the last 3 years compared with other demographic groups. This group seems to be suffering much poorer mental health and wellbeing than the other groups, particularly in relation to emotional problems. Borderline or abnormal scores increased for this group from 28% in 2010 to 41% in 2013. In addition, in terms of overall mental health and wellbeing , there has been a 10% increase in 3 years, from 2010-2013 in the number of girls with borderline/abnormal scores.
The two key factors which emerged as key to young people’s mental health and wellbeing were:
1. The number and nature of their friendships – those who had fewer friends had poorer mental health and wellbeing.
2. The relationship with school – those that disliked school, felt pressured by school work, truanted on multiple occasions or had been excluded had poorer mental health and wellbeing than those who did not.
Other factors that were associated with increased prevalence of poor mental health and wellbeing included:
• Parental knowledge of activity being below average; and
• Spending 6-7 nights out a week with friends.
Variables that were linked to better mental health and wellbeing included:
• Living with both parents
• Expecting to go on to further study after leaving school: and
• Belonging to a group or club.
A number of activities appeared to have a protective effect against poor mental health and wellbeing. Belonging to a group or club and seeing friends, doing a hobby, reading a book or playing a sport at least weekly were associated with better mental health and wellbeing. For girls, in particular, playing sport on a weekly basis was strongly related to lower levels of emotional and behavioural problems.
Poorer physical health is associated with lower mental health and wellbeing. Young people who reported that they had a limiting illness or disability tended to suffer from poorer mental health and wellbeing.
Young people who had mixed or multiple ethnicity were more likely to suffer from poor mental health and wellbeing than those from other ethnicities.
High levels of deprivation were also correlated with poorer mental health and wellbeing. The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), perceived family affluence, and receipt of Free School Meals all showed a relationship with mental health and wellbeing.
There was no clear pattern in mental health and wellbeing by urban/rural classification.
Alison Johnstone MSP said:
“These are significant findings and must be investigated further. The sharp drop in emotional wellbeing of 15 year old girls in recent years is a cause for concern and we should draw on the experiences of pupils, parents and teachers to understand what is causing this and how to turn the situation around.
“In general we know that good mental health and wellbeing among young people is at risk if they have fewer friends, dislike school and feel pressured. Encouraging support networks in and out of school and helping pupils play an active part in how their school is run would seem sensible steps to pursue. The finding that girls who play sport on a weekly basis have lower levels of emotional and behavioural problems underlines the need to invest in active lifestyles in and out of school.
“Emotional wellbeing is just as important as physical health. Ensuring good mental health in young people helps them grow into resilient adults able to handle life’s ups and downs.”social%20emotional
What does it mean for us?

How should colleges respond to this as many of these young people may progress from school to college?
What support structures do we need to put in place to ensure that we prioritise mental health and wellbeing and are alert to the signs of an increase in emotional and behavioural problems?
Given the evidence that taking part in sport and other activities are an important part of increasing mental health and wellbeing, how can we promote extra-curricular activities within our colleges?


The ABC of Gender Equality in Education:- Aptitude, Behaviour, Confidence


This report by OECD is a valuable contribution to work on gender issues and examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment and entrepreneurship with the aim of improving policies and promoting gender equality.

A few things stood out for me:-

Parents and teachers have a crucial role to play. Parents can give their sons and daughters equal support and encouragement for all of their school work and aspirations for the future and teachers can help by becoming more aware of their own gender biases that may affect how they award marks to students.


  • Boys tend to do better in both maths and reading when they sit a computer-based test, compared to their performances on paper-based tests- and that this advantage is largely a by-product of boys’ familiarity with video games. The more frequently students play one-player video games and collaborative online games, which boys tend to play more than girls, the worse their relative performance on paper-based tests is.
  • Reading anything for enjoyment is better for student performance than reading nothing. Teachers and parents often discourage boys from reading such material as sports magazines or comic books in the belief that these materials are not the best for developing reading skills. But, for a variety of reasons, boys may not like or choose to read fiction, and discouraging them from reading what they prefer may alienate them from the habit of reading altogether.Reading
  • Around the age of fifteen, gender differences in attitudes towards school and learning become evident and seem to be strongly related to how girls and boys have absorbed society’s notions of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ behaviour and pursuits as they were growing up. Boys can adopt a concept of masculinity that includes a disregard for authority, academic work and formal achievement. Some have suggested that boys’ motivation at school dissipates from the age of eight onwards, and that by the age of ten or eleven, 40% of boys belong to one of three groups: the ‘disaffected’, the ‘disappointed’ and the ‘disappeared’.
  • When students are disengaged with school they act out their disengagement with bad behaviour; they arrive late for school or skip classes or days out of school.
  • Across OECD countries, the difference in performance that is associated with arriving late for school among students of the same gender is 19 points in maths and reading and 20 points in science. Performance differences associated with a lack of punctuality are particularly large among low achievers. Since boys tend to be more likely than girls to be low performers and are also more likely to arrive late for school, their performance is more likely to suffer because arriving late for school means that these students miss out on learning opportunities.
  • As teenagers, boys tend to be less self-disciplined than girls: they are less likely than girls to be able to delay gratification, plan ahead, set goals and persist in the face of frustrations and setbacks.
  • Among boys and girls of similar academic ability, girls tend to be more reluctant to compete than boys, while boys are more responsive to extrinsic motivation than girls.
  • Boys also appear to be particularly sensitive to environmental factors, while girls are comparatively less affected by a lack of discipline, disorganisation and chaos in the classroom.


  • PISA and other studies find that girls have less belief in their own abilities in maths and science, and are plagued with greater anxiety towards maths than boys, – even when they perform just as well as boys. Some studies have found that girls rate their own ability as lower than that of boys as early as first year of primary school- even when their actual performance does not differ from that of boys.
  • Girls were consistently more likely than boys to report feelings of anxiety towards maths, and when students are anxious, in general, and are anxious about maths in particular, their brains cannot devote sufficient attention to solving maths problems because they are, instead, occupied with worrying about such tasks. Students who experience maths anxiety generally avoid maths, maths courses and career paths that require the mastery of some mathematical skills.maths
  • One of the reasons why boys and girls may develop different levels of maths skills may be because they are offered, or take advantage of, different opportunities to learn maths in and outside of school. For example, girls are more likely than boys to play chess, programme computers, take part in maths competitions or do maths as an extracurricular activity.
  • Girls tend to outperform boys on tasks where they are required to identify scientific issues, but boys outperform girls in tasks that require them to apply knowledge of science in a given situation, to describe or interpret phenomena scientifically and predict changes, and to identify appropriate scientific descriptions, explanations and predictions.


  • OECD data suggest that girls tend to do more of the easy, less hands-on activities that could provide them with information about different career options. By contrast, boys appear to be not only more likely to be enrolled in education pathways that are more practical and work-related, but also when considering a possible job, they are more apt to try to work in a related job. Being interns and shadowing workers in their jobs not only help boys to gain a better understanding of the labour market, but these practical activities are the first steps towards building networks and connections that could be useful when the job search becomes serious. Girls are more likely than boys to have completed a questionnaire to determine their interests and abilities or to have browsed the internet for information about careers.
  • Across the OECD countries, almost one in three boys and girls reported that they had not acquired the skills necessary to write a CV or a summary of their qualifications while 14% of boys and 15% of girls reported they did not know how to find information about jobs that interest them. CV
  • In addition, 52% of boys and 46% of boys reported that they did not know how to find information about financing higher education.
  • However, across all countries and economies that participated in PISA, girls held more ambitious career expectations than boys.
  • OECD data suggests that boys and girls generally expect careers in different fields and that gender differences in careers expectations vary greatly across countries. ‘Medical doctor’ is the only occupation mentioned by both boys and girls alike in more than 25 OECD countries. The career of ‘lawyer’ was chosen by girls in 25 OECD countries and 17 partner countries and economies, but chosen by boys in only 10 partner countries and economies.
  • A large number of girls in many PISA participating countries expect to have careers as hairdresser or beautician, while such occupations are not ranked among the 10 most popular occupations among boys in any OECD or partner country.
  • Other professions favoured by girls include nursing, midwifery, teaching, veterinary medicine, childcare and psychology. In contrast, the data suggest that boys prefer professional sport, car mechanics, computing, engineering and law enforcement as careers.
  • This data suggest that, with few exceptions, not only do boys and girls have very different expectations, but students in different countries tend to see their future careers in very different occupations. Teenagers tend to choose careers from a relatively well-defined spectrum. A concentration of interest in relatively few careers may indicate little knowledge of the options available in the labour market and could create a potential skills mismatch between what the labour market needs and the availability of suitable workers.


  • On average, there are almost 4 times as many boys as girls who expect to be employed in engineering and computing in OECD countries.

The role of families and schools

  • Parents were more likely to expect their sons, rather than their daughters to work in a STEM field, even when boys and girls perform at the same level in maths.
  • Results suggest that the socio-economic composition of the school a student attends may be more important for a boy’s performance than his socio-economic status. While boys and girls tend to benefit from attending schools with more advantaged peers, the performance difference that is associated with the socio-economic composition of schools is much more pronounced among boys than it is among girls.

So what can we do?


  • Give students a greater choice in what they read:- obliging poor readers, who are overwhelmingly boys, to read texts that they may find too challenging- and perhaps uninteresting to them as well- may alienate them from reading altogether.


  • Allow some video-gaming, but homework comes first:- students who spend more time doing homework tend to have better results in reading, maths and science. Boys spend less time than girls doing homework, but more time than girls playing video games. Moderate video-gaming may help students acquire useful skills such as spatial judgement and the ability to navigate through web based material.  video games
  • Train teachers to be aware of their own gender biases:- the data suggest that teachers may harbour conscious or unconscious stereotyped notions about girls’ and boys’ strengths and weaknesses in school subjects, and, through the marks they give reinforce those notions among their students and students’ families.
  • Build girls’ self-confidence:- teachers and parents can help girls to build their confidence by evaluating girls’ actual abilities; noting the tasks they can accomplish relatively easily and those with which they struggle. They can provide positive reinforcement for the work girls do well and offer opportunities to think like scientists in low-stakes situations, where making mistakes does not have a consequence for their marks.
  • Help students look ahead:- education systems could strengthen their career advice and orientation services by forming consortia across different schools and creating partnerships with colleges, universities, local business groups and trade associations, and by inviting parents to offer job-shadowing opportunities and ‘bring your child to work’ programmes. They could also encourage parents to speak to classes, explaining their work and the skills most valued and developed in their jobs.

There is a lot in here which ties in quite well with the sentiments of Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce and may provide options for the way ahead to advance equalities and opportunities for all Scotland’s young people.

Spotlight on women in computing – Maggie Morrison, CGI

Fantastic role model for women in ICT

Ayrshire College Blog

Maggie Morrisonis Director of Business Development, Public Sector at CGI Scotland. Prior to joining CGI, she was Account General Manager for Hewlett Packard in Scotland and previously held senior leadership positions at home and abroad for Cisco, 3Com and Cabletron. At Cisco Maggie founded four Cisco Networking Academies with not for profit organisations in Glasgow. Maggie is passionate about the digital divide, skills, and gender in the workplace. In this article, she reflects on her career.

Reflecting back on 32 years in the IT industry, I have had an amazing journey! When I graduated in the eighties there was a severe recession and jobs were tough to find, even for graduates. My priority after university was to find a job, any job, just to get on the career ladder. My first job was in telephone sales, a role which didn’t require a degree level qualification. Telephone sales is tough…

View original post 385 more words

Analysis of equality results from 2011 Census in Scotland

Analysis of equality results from the 2011 Census


The Scottish Government has recently produced a report which adds value to the equality data published on Scotland’s Census website.  It examines the following census topic areas such as labour market, education, housing and transport. I’ve focused mainly on the education analysis which is quite fascinating and worth considering when colleges are developing equality outcomes and regional outcomes.

Full-time students

  • 46% of the population in Scotland aged 16-24 were full-time students
  • Of those, 85% ‘Other Asian’ including Chinese were full-time students and 74% of ‘Indian’ people.
  • Only 41% of ‘White Scottish’ were full-time students (the third lowest)

Highest level of qualifications

  • People from minority ethnic groups tended to have higher qualification levels than the ‘White Scottish’ group
  • 62% of ‘Indian’ people had a Level 4 qualification[1] compared to only 22% of ‘White Scottish’
  • 29% of ‘White Scottish’ had no qualifications at all (2nd lowest group)
  • 50% of ‘White Gypsy/Traveller’ had no qualifications

Ethnic group by gender with no qualifications

  • A higher proportion of females (53%) than males (47%) had no qualifications
  • However, those groups with mixed ethnicity, Polish and Caribbean or Black, the majority of those with no qualifications were male

Ethnic group by method of travel to study

  • 39% of all students travelled on foot to study
  • 21% travelled by car, mainly as passengers
  • 12% travelled by bus
  • 12% of people studied at home
  • 28% of the ‘Pakistani’ group studied mainly at or from home

Ethnic group by distance travelled to study

  • 56% of people travelled less than 2km to their place of study including those who studied at home[2]
  • 31% travelled between 2km and 9km
  • 14 % travelled 10km and more
  • People who recorded their ethnic group as @mixed or Multiple’ were most likely to travel longer distances of 2km to their place of study
  • People who recorded a ‘Chines’ ethnicity were most likely to travel less than 2km

Full-time students and religion

  • 79% of Hindus and Buddhists in the 16-24 age group were full-time students
  • 73% of Jews and 66% of Muslims were in full time education
  • 44% of full-time students had no religion

Religion by Highest Qualification

  • 74% of Hindus had a Level 4 qualification (see above)
  • 28% of those with no religion had a Level 4 qualification
  • 35% of those who recorded their religion as ‘Church of Scotland’ had no qualifications (the lowest group)

Long term health problem of disability

  • People with a limiting long-term health problem of disability were more likely to have no qualifications
  • 42% of students were limited a little by a long-term health problem or disability
  • 32% of students were limited a lot by a long-term health problem of disability

Long-term health problem or disability by Highest Level of Qualification

  • 20% of people who were limited a little by a long-term health problem or disability held a Level 4 qualification compared with 29% who were not limited.
  • 12% of people who were limited a lot by a long-term health problem or disability held a Level 4 qualification

Long-term health problem or disability by gender

  • 57% of those with no qualifications who were limited by a long-term health problem or disability were female as opposed to 43% male

BSL users by Highest Level of Qualification

  • 11% of BSL users aged 16-24 held Level 4 qualifications
  • 35% of BSL users ahead 16-24 held Level 3 qualifications (HNC/D)
  • 19% of BSL users aged 16-24 had no qualifications compared to 70% of BSL users aged over 65

[1] Level 1= ‘O’ Grade, Standard Grade, Access 3 Cluster, Intermediate 1 or 2, GCSE, CSE, SVQ Level 1 or 2, SCOTVEC Module, City and Guilds Craft

Level 2= ‘SCE Higher Grade, Higher, Advanced Higher, CSYS, A level  , AS Level, SVQ level 3

Level 3= HNC, HND, SVQ level 4

Level 4= Degree, Postgraduate, Masters, PhD, SVQ Level 5, professional qualifications including teaching, nursing and accountancy

[2] Includes school children as well as college and university students

Empower autism with LiveCode

I would like to share news about a new project which will help develop employment skills for people with autism and create a new Social Enterprise in Edinburgh, creating real jobs.
LiveCode want to teach 3000 people on the autism spectrum to code, enabling them to learn something new and give them the opportunity to gain employment skills, or become self-employed through the app industry.
Together with Specialisterne, NAS and LiveCode, they are launching an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign which will pay for the project to go ahead.

The six month program will teach participants how to code apps, even if they have no previous coding experience. All participants will be allowed a mentor (who can be anyone), to help support them during the program, on top of the specialist support they will receive from LiveCode.
Participants will also be able to benefit from online workshops which will help them decide what type of employment best suits their needs – and they’ll get an introduction to the tech industry. Once the program is completed, there will be an online marketplace where participants can bid for work and sell their unique services on a freelance basis.

More information is available on this link:-

Supporting LGBT young people in education

On Saturday I attended a one day conference in Perth organised by LGBT Youth Scotland and Education Scotland. Its theme was around supporting LGBT young people in education and was attended by over 50 young people, teachers, youth workers and other education professionals. We were welcomed by Cllr. McLellan from Perth and Kinross Council who told us that they weer the first local authority to sign up to the No Bystanders Campaign from Stonewall which tackles bullying and abuse on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Fergus McMillan, Chief Executive of LGBT Youth Scotland talked about their work with young people and the principles they work by:

  • learners at the centre
  • a youth work approach
  • visibility
  • leadership
  • whole school/college
  • partnership

The work of Broxburn Academy in West Lothian was highlighted as they are the first school in Scotland to have obtained the silver LGBT Charter Award.  Their Depute Principal and Chair of the Parent Council have been instrumental in driving this forward with the support of their champions and the school LGBT Forum and Health and Wellbeing Forum.  http://broxburnacademy.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/LGBT-Silver-Charter.pdf

LGBT Youth Scotland are also launching a range of short films suitable for early years. The one we saw at the conference deals with gender stereotyping in the early years of nursery and primary school and would be a useful resource for college courses in childcare and early years education.

Shaun Dellenty, Depute Headteacher at Alfred Salter Primary School in Rotherhithe, London gave an inspirational talk on the work his school has been engaged in in relation to Inclusion for All http://www.shaundellenty.com/

Some nuggets of wisdom I gleaned from his talk:-

  • empower your staff to be authentic
  • create a representative workforce
  • “if you can’t support a teacher to be themselves how can you support pupils to be all they can be?”
  • develop cognitive empathy for difference
  • have a strong ethos statement (useful if people are complaining- you can always bring them back to that)
  • Watch language:- “You call it banter, I call it hurt”
  • lay LGBT role models alongside other people who have experienced prejudice, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks
  • use Mindfulness with learners as it helps them begin to understand prejudice

Check out Shaun Dellenty’s video on how to start using the word “gay” respectfully in classrooms:- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MASYLjGUAWU#t=29