One thought on “Prophets of the Future 2: The Attainment Gap and Catholic Schools

  • “music, art and drama, curricular areas that are often overlooked nowadays in Scottish schools” I absolutely agree that this is a great travesty and unfortunately, in my opinion, is an enormous contributor to the widening of that attainment gap. It is disgraceful that young people from our traditional working class families who wish to pursue careers in the performing arts face so many difficulties and barriers. Why did it take so long to arrange one to one Teams music lessons online during lockdown? Why would we even consider charging young people to learn an instrument? Are just a few of the questions which highlight the ways in which impoverished young people may be actively discouraged from exploring the arts.

    In Catholic schools we do work hard to focus on closing that gap and breakfast clubs and uniform banks are one contributing factor, though these of course are not to Catholic schools.

    Addressing poverty and closing that gap requires imagination on every level. Classroom teachers must be more willing to accommodate the vulnerable youngster, though I know how difficult this can be. We need to design imaginative curriculums that appeal to young people and engage their interest. In RE this can be a particular challenge, and I agree there is a responsibility to draw awareness to the rich culture the arts afford us in this area. We need to support parents, by ensuring young people have opportunities to develop their faith and link that right back to their family, we need to involve the families in our schools too. Educating the child, requires teaching the parent how to support that child. Perhaps this is where our online experience will benefit us, many parents who up until now have been strangers to our schools through fear or intimidation could be reached on a Team meeting, allowing them to feel more in control.

    I believe that in order to close that attainment gap, we have to focus on transitions. The switch from primary to secondary where young people are at risk of being lost, and then again when they move on to Higher education. We underestimate the challenge involved in being the first person in an entire family to go to University. I was in that situation myself and whilst incredibly exciting there was an enormous pressure involved, making that decision to put off entering the workplace. I was an only child and so my parents weren’t relying on me financially, but I have seen so many young people choose not to go to university because their parents are relying on some financial support for younger siblings. As a society it is our responsibility to support these young people, perhaps our parishes could consider a bursary fund could help the families in this situation.

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