I’ve made many visits to Scotland over the last couple of years, taking as creatives’ learning programmes to primary and secondary schools in Clydebank, Cumbernauld, Dundee, Dunfermline, Glasgow (lots of trips to Glasgow!), Johnstone, Kilmarnock, Langholm, Paisley, Renfrew and Troon. As part of our ambition to promote creativity in education, we’ve developed the Five C’s. The first of which is Connections – making links between different areas of knowledge and understanding to transfer skills and bridge gaps. Scotland absolutely gets this.
There’s an annual celebration of maths, for example, connecting every educational institution in the country – Maths Week Scotland (there’s an all-Ireland Maths Week, too – why not England and Wales, I wonder?). Taking place only last week, this year’s Maths Week Scotland saw me in four schools, delivering some of our most challenging programmes: The Pirate’s Challenge, Captain Morgan and the Maths Monster (both in role as Captain Richard Morgan) and, twice, The Race into Space (in the guise of Major Tom).
There’s a genuine interest in exploring learning outside the classroom, as way of supporting pupils in recognising the relevance of maths to everyday life. Our Outdoor Maths workshops seem to be particularly popular north of the border – and, with teachers demonstrating palpably less fear of poor weather than in England, I’ve delivered them in driving rain, howling winds – and knee deep in snow!
Then there’s the ferocious drive to achieve “equity” for all children, recognising that different pupils face different barriers to learning – and making the connection with economic disadvantage. Funding is provided by the Scottish Government – and the Edinburgh Mathematical Society is connected, too – offering grants to schools wishing to participate in – you’ve guessed it – Maths Week Scotland. The “equity” agenda also acknowledges the need to secure parental engagement – and, on a percentage basis, there’s a far higher take-up for our innovative Family Maths workshops than in the rest of the UK.
There seems to be a real focus on Twitter, with school after school using the platform to share experiences, outcomes and achievements – with bulletins being retweeted far and wide across the country. A way of connecting in a nation where some towns and villages are particularly remote? I don’t know – but it’s certainly impressive.
And there’s the soup. At lunchtime in the autumn and winter terms, nearly every one of the Scottish schools I’ve visited offers children soup, as well as the standard main course and dessert – at no additional cost to families. Delicious, homemade soup – almost always lentil. Relatively cheap to make and full of goodness, it warms the cockles of the heart and, even on the coldest of days, sets everyone up for engagement and learning in the afternoon. Lentils and learning. There’s a connection there – if ever I saw one!