Learning for people of all ages requires a multifaceted approach

This article by Alan Armstrong, Strategic Director, Lifelong Learning appeared in the Herald newspaper on 08 September 2014.

Scottish Education is undergoing a major shift with the introduction of the new curriculum from 3-18 and stories relating to education have been dominated by scrutiny of the new national qualifications. When speaking of education, the predominant image is inevitably of school-going children and young people.  However, learning is for everyone. Learning takes place throughout life and in a broad range of settings.   Education Scotland works to promote and improve learning opportunities for all. Community Learning and Development (CLD) is a hugely significant area of development for us.  It supports individuals, families and communities to tackle real issues in their lives through learning and action.

We are well aware of the links between deprivation and attainment. Whilst many answers lie within school settings, CLD has a significant role to play in closing this gap. We have been working hard to raise broader awareness of strengths in this area of education. CLD provides great opportunities for young people to undertake learning which contributes to their wider achievements, for example through youth work or schemes such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

New CLD Regulations mean Community Planning Partnerships, local authorities and providers of public services must respond appropriately to expectations set by the national CLD Strategic Guidance. Working with agencies, our aim collectively is to create stronger, more resilient, supportive, influential communities and improve life chances for people of all ages. We support them through learning, personal development and active citizenship which can be the key to successes in our personal, family, community and working lives.

The recently published Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill proposes new rights for communities and duties for public authorities. These will, it is widely recognised, require more than legislation to become effective realities. Active community development interventions will be required if communities are to have a chance, on an equal basis, of benefiting from provisions in the Act.

This summer we also published the Adult Learning Statement of Ambition which we developed in partnership with learners and national agencies.  It aims to give every adult the right to access learning and make Scotland one of the most creative and engaged learning societies in the world.  However, without action and investment these are just words. Local authorities, politicians, employers, support agencies and everyone who supports adult learning need to add their commitment to this ambition and to act on it.

The new Youth Work Strategy, developed with YouthLink recognises that youth work too is creating substantial opportunities for learning outside the classroom. This strategy will give young people a voice, build sustainable learning cultures, ensure that Scotland is the best place to be young and in which to grow up, and ultimately improve wellbeing and life chances.

Through the CLD regulations and our developments in youth work and adult learning, Education Scotland has led a step-change in the clarity of ambitions for CLD and an energy and sense of purpose for the sector that will provide guidance over the coming years.

These initiatives have also ensured strong synergies with many other developments in education and beyond – the Early Years Collaborative, the Children and Young People’s Act, Curriculum for Excellence, the Post-16 Act, and The Wood Commission.  Together they provide an integrated framework of policy, advice and guidance.  I am confident that practitioners across CLD are very well placed to draw on this framework in providing the very best experiences for the young people, adults, families and communities they work with.

Scotland has a long, prestigious history for great learning, invention and innovation. We should embrace this legacy and look towards untapped potential amongst people of all ages. The impact of lifelong learning is extensive and includes opportunities to change or start new careers, help build communities and assist children with their homework. Learning means different things to different people at different stages but one thing is certain, it can mean life-changing possibilities both for individuals and for their communities, given the right level of support and encouragement. That it is up to all of us to help provide.