Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney visited Loudoun Academy to learn more about their innovative approaches to teaching and learning.
Welcomed to the school by Council Leader, Councillor Douglas Reid and Head Teacher Linda McAulay-Griffiths, Mr Swinney visited the school’s state of the art barista suite. He enjoyed a latte made by pupils who have received hospitality training at school with trainers from Ayrshire College.
Linda McAulay-Griffiths gave a presentation detailing how the school was involved with the National Improvement Framework and Scottish Attainment Challenge; the role of local employers within everyday school life and the importance of working closely with parents.
Local employers, Lorna Gibson from QTS, Stephen Rawding from VG Energy, David Parker from ETC Workwear, Alison Somerville from Dustacco and Colin Blair from Buzzworks joined in the discussions with Mr Swinney about the importance of involving employers in the pupils’ learner journey.
Lorna Gibson said: “I drive past Loudoun Academy every day on my way to work and I would never have thought of dropping in to speak to the Head Teacher about the skills shortage within STEM industries in Scotland.
“But Linda reached out to me. She picked up the phone and invited me to visit the school and talk about how QTS could support pupil development.
“I was so impressed by the barista suite, which had been developed in partnership with Colin Blair of Buzzworks, and the hospitality training taking place within the school in conjunction with Ayrshire College. There was no reason that we couldn’t develop a similar training scheme for engineering. There are now 12 pupils training in engineering subjects within the school and each has a mentor from industry.
“Employers are keen to work alongside schools to provide advice and support especially to plug the STEM shortage we are experiencing in Scotland. Pupils need to be work ready when they leave school and working closely with Linda and her team we have created a training qualification which is focused on the skills young people need in the workforce.”
Mr Swinney expressed his appreciation that so many of the school’s business partners had come along and his gratitude for the work they were doing with and for the young people.
Loudoun Academy is now looking at courses, delivered within the school, to help young people enter a career within Early Years and the Home Care sector. The school is synchronising their efforts with local businesses and public sector partners to ensure that all pupils achieve positive destinations.
A new scheme called Ready to Learn has been introduced from this term. Ready to Learn provides young people with pastoral support and ensures that they feel they belong at school. This support can be practical in the form of providing things like gym kit, breakfast or help with homework but it can also focus on a pupil’s wellbeing.
New evidence shows that attainment and negative childhood experiences are intrinsically linked. The Head Teacher and her team are focused on their pupils and understand that wellbeing is the foundation of good learning. They are adapting the curriculum to ensure that all pupils see a role for themselves within the school and reach their full potential.
Mr Swinney said: “I was very impressed by the way Loudoun Academy is developing learning and teaching at the school and particularly with the very positive relationships that are being built up with local businesses to ensure pupils have the skills that employers are looking for.
“These types of partnerships between schools, colleges and employers are key to ensuring young people are well prepared to go into the world of work and is something that the Scottish Government is committed to supporting.”
Councillor Douglas Reid said: “Educational Attainment is a key priority for East Ayrshire Council and we are determined to provide the very best education we can to our young people.
“We like to think outside of the box and have worked closely with local businesses and entrepreneurs including Sir Tom Hunter connecting employers with our local schools to ensure that our young people are inspired to achieve and gain the essential skills they need to successfully enter the workplace.
“We have sought to ensure that engagement with business is part of normal school life and is embedded in the curriculum. Our ambition is to ensure that every pupil will develop the skills and abilities for a successful career.”
After some very positive discussions involving Councillor Fiona Campbell, Cabinet Member for Skills and Learning; Alan Brown, MP and Willie Coffey, MSP; Mr Swinney visited the leisure centre attached to Loudoun Academy. He spoke to pupils taking part in after school fitness classes within the gym and took time to speak to the netball team who were training for their next game, wishing them the very best.