All posts by T. Reilly

The importance of empowered learners

I have for a long time been an advocate for children’s rights, and embedding rights-based approaches into all services that are involved with children and young people. Learner empowerment is a very important aspect of this, and I strongly believe that we cannot have effective systems for learners if we don’t seek their views and opinions, and act upon these.

Research clearly shows that when learners are involved in making decisions about their learning, schools and communities that there is an improved culture and ethos and raised attainment and achievement. Being involved in decision making also provides children and young people with important skills that will help them to become confident learners, responsible citizens, effective contributors and successful learners.

Those are the very same capacities that Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence sets out to achieve by putting learners at the heart of education. It really highlights the value of empowering learners and the impact it can have on shaping the people they become.

As someone who is passionate about children’s rights, I welcomed the chance to work with children and young people to develop new guidance that sets out clear principles and a rationale for empowering learners. I met with children and young people from primary, secondary and Additional Support Needs (ASN) backgrounds to shape this new guidance which will remain in draft over this academic year to allow even more people to help shape this valuable resource.

Many schools and other education settings have planned systems to ensure that learners are fully involved in making decisions, and are able to lead and contribute to school improvement. I met learners who are regularly asked about their experiences of their learning and what is working well or could be improved. And many practitioners are open and transparent with children and young people, and value and act upon their views and opinions.

It is wonderful that so much focus is already being placed on learner empowerment across Scotland and as one (empowered) Primary Six pupil said to me “kids know what schools should be like for kids”. I couldn’t have put it better myself!

Maxine Jolly, Senior Education Officer at Education Scotland

New guidance published to support empowerment

New guidance has been published as drafts which aims to support an empowered education system in working together to improve outcomes for children and young people.

The range of draft guidance has been developed in partnership with those working in our education system through the School Empowerment Steering Group.

Each tailored guide sets out what empowerment should look like in practice for eight key partners in an empowered system, including school leaders, teachers and practitioners, support staff and parents and carers.

Gayle Gorman, HM Chief Inspector of Education and Chair of the Steering Group said: “Evidence shows that successful education systems are those where decisions about the education of children are made as close to them as possible so it is important that educators feel empowered to make those decisions.

“It is also important that everyone involved in the education of our children works together and shares their knowledge for the shared aim of achieving the best educational outcomes for our children and young people.

“Over the coming academic year, we would encourage those working in education across Scotland to refer to these new guides which clearly set out what an empowered system looks like in practice and feel confident to make the decisions that will have a positive impact on the attainment of our young people.”

Feedback will be gathered over academic year 2019/20 before final versions are developed by June 2020.

For further information and to view the guides, visit

Professional Learning Opportunities with the Inclusion and Equalities team at Education Scotland

Solution Oriented Training 16th and 17th of January 2018

This training introduces participants to the solution-oriented approach. This is a strengths-based approach which, while acknowledging problems, focuses on future possibilities and solutions. The training aims to increase understanding and awareness of the approach and develop skills in working with individuals, groups as well as skills in running solution-oriented meetings.

This two day training will take place in Atlantic Quay, Glasgow and is aimed at strategic leaders in local authorities and schools.

Restorative Approaches – National Training Days 31st January and 1st February (Edinburgh) and  14th and 15th February (Glasgow)

Many people may believe that children and young people must be punished when they misbehave. This type of response can be ineffective, dangerous, breed resentment and make situations worse as a child or young person can be resentful of punishment rather than reflective of their actions.  Children and young people require the opportunity to hear about and face up to the harm and distress they have caused others.

Restorative approaches are built on values which separate the person from the behaviour. They promote accountability and seek to repair any harm caused in a situation.

Schools may use restorative approaches as part of a planned response to relationship and/or discipline difficulties. This is a more effective response than traditional punishments. Restorative approaches can change the emotional atmosphere in a school and lead to more positive relationships between pupils and between pupils and staff.

These two day national training events are open to all staff and managers working in schools who have an interest in improving the ethos and culture in their school or setting.

Places are limited and will be allocated on a first come basis.

Training in Nurturing Approaches

We have recently completed our secondary nurturing approaches training in Edinburgh which was very well received and we hope to continue to work with all those who attended to support implementation of this approach. The Recall session for this training will be on Friday the 26th of January in Victoria Quay from 1 pm to 3.45 pm.  This will only be opened to those who attended the secondary nurturing approaches training.

On the 26th of January from 9.30 am to 12.30 pm we will be offering another opportunity to attend the Applying Nurture as a whole school approach training.  This is opened to strategic leads at local authority or school level who are implementing nurturing approaches and would like further information on this self-evaluation framework.

The Primary Nurturing Approaches 4 day training will be delivered in Glasgow on the 1st and 2nd and 27th and 28th of February.  This again is more appropriate for strategic leads at local authority and school level.  There are limited spaces remaining for this training.

Further primary nurturing approaches training and secondary nurturing approaches training is likely to be focused on supporting Regional Improvement Collaboratives where this is a priority.

If you are interested in booking a place on one of the above courses please email Hazel Gore at specifying the course you wish to attend.