AN education boss has called on Scotland to improve school standards – by returning to 19th century teaching principles.
North Ayrshire education director John Butcher has pointed to the lessons of Robert Owen – a 19th century Welsh teaching guru – as the key to higher performance in Scots students.
Owen, who ran a number of businesses in Scotland, opened the world’s first workplace nursery, instituted a living wage and encouraged a broad curriculum for child and adult students alike.
In a speech to council bosses from across Scotland, Butcher said,“It’s absolutely, explicitly clear – if you are poor, you do not achieve in Scotland.”
He called on them to recognise that the key to improving a child’s education was improving their overall quality of life – a lesson taught by Owen some 200 years ago.
He went on to claim that Owen’s lessons were more important than ever, with many families relying on foodbanks, and the performance of children tightly linked to where they come from.
He also made calls on education bosses to recognise the importance of cooperating with other services, including NHS mental health workers, to stop children slipping between the cracks.
And schools can only go so far with children’s literacy, he said, explaining that other services would be required to help parents read and write so they could work with children at home.
The University of Glasgow launched their Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change in 2013, and centre director professor Chris Chapman also spoke out at the event.
Local initiatives were not enough to make big improvements to attainment, he said, emphasising the importance cross-agency and council cooperation.
“It seems to me, having moved to Scotland quite recently, that there is a massive untapped potential within the Scottish system, but only if we could join it up and release it.”
North Ayrshire was recently announced as one of seven local authorities to benefit from the first batch of funding from a £100m poverty fund.
Born in 1771, Owen owned a variety of businesses throughout his life, including mills and cooperative shops in Scotland.
In addition to pioneering workers’ rights, he was also a major advocate for the eight-hour work day, coining the phrase: “Eight hours labour, Eight hours recreation, Eight hours rest.”
He was also a major forerunner of the cooperative movement, using profits to fund education with an emphasis on “moral fibre.”