School activities give every child widest chance - Alison Dickie

Netball. I was the goal shooter! I’d like to say it was down to my sheer talent, but my Gandalf frame and being closer to the basket likely featured in the selection process.

Wednesday, 8th September 2021, 8:00 am
Councillor Alison Dickie is Alison Dickie is education, children and families vice-convener at Edinburgh City Council

Whatever, it was that after school opportunity and the experience of winning as a team which provided a much needed confidence boost amidst some other challenges in my life.

It’s with that in mind, that I highlight the value of wider achievements in our children and young people’s educational recovery process.

A ‘human rights crisis’. The Children’s Commissioner recently tweeted out these words in response to the Covid Inquiry. He referred to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the rights of children, especially those whose rights were already at risk. And most of all, how the inquiry was an opportunity for lessons to be learned.

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My retweet was simple, ‘I couldn’t agree more.’ When we stop to think about it, children have had their rights to education, health, family life, and even to play and sing stripped away. So, as we seek to help our young people recover, wider achievements have a role in restoring those rights.

There’s no doubt, it’s been vital to focus on getting our schools back up and running. However, many have raised their frustration around the delay to restart those wider and holistic extra-curricular opportunities, especially for those who need them most.

Without them, inequality grows. In my own classrooms, the wider achievements sheet shone a light on the great divide…those with the resources to access an abundance of opportunities out of school, and those who could not. But extra- curricular activities via school connected them with that world in a free and affordable way.

It’s one of the reasons I started my own after school guitar club, where one of my proudest moments was watching a pupil shine as the lead singer, an opportunity he might not otherwise have had and which led to confidence in other areas.

I sit too on the John Watson’s Trust and regularly sift through a long list of applications which beg to fund even a dance lesson. It’s heart breaking.

So, a report will come to October’s Education Committee about the progress made in restoring these rights.

Work underway includes our Active Schools targeting schools and ensuring the whole service is free; young people enjoying the Get into Summer activities and heading back to their indoor youthwork homes; welcoming clubs back across our schools; access to pitches; opening Braidburn pool, which has been sorely missed; children and their families accessing new experiences and trips in the holidays thanks to the work of Discover; and working towards opening our after 6pm school lets, particularly our uniformed organisations, in October.

Of most encouragement, is the city wide work going on to map the gaps in those school wider achievement sheets and grow opportunities for all. There are many issues yet to sort, communication to name but one, but it’s essential that we now move towards a human rights celebration and give every child the widest chance.

Cllr Alison Dickie is Vice Convener for Education, Children and Families at the City of Edinburgh Council