Piecing together the Jigsaw: Common Weal and Edinburgh University childhood project

‘Piecing together the Jigsaw: Connecting the politics of childhood poverty, education and welfare’ will start with a Policy Lab looking at the specific ways in which poverty affects children and young people

THE link between poverty and underachievement is undeniable but there is still limited agreement on why they are related. The Scottish Government are pursuing with great urgency a strategy to remedy the situation, but risks repeating the mistakes of education systems in England and the USA where frequent testing has not helped overcome disadvantage. There is clearly a need to extend discussion of this complex and intractable problem.

In response to this challenging situation, and in the belief that good policy needs to be built on widespread discussion and democratic participation of all relevant parties, Common Weal and the University of Edinburgh are inviting you to take part in ‘Piecing Together the Jigsaw’, a series of Policy Labs followed by a conference to present the findings. The first session will take place in September 2016 on the question How does poverty affect children and young people?

Our plans are for three Policy Labs, each lasting three hours, leading to a whole-day Conference.  The events will seek to bring together professionals, parents, policy makers, politicians, service providers and young people to better connect research and thinking.  They will seek to bridge across the silos and cul-de-sacs of policy, research and practice to generate consensus on how we go forward.  One major concern is to examine whether current policies and initiatives concerning school attainment, care, early years, early intervention, additional support for learning and ‘wellbeing’ merely act as sticking plasters for much deeper and entrenched inequalities. 

The aim is to bring together all those with an interest in forming a deeper understanding of the lives of children and young people growing up in poverty, its impact on education, and the contradictory nature of responses including the Attainment Challenge. The policy labs and concluding conference are designed to enhance participatory policy formation and enactment, and create a sound consensus for future developments.

The various meetings, the blogs posted in preparation, and summaries of the discussions, will form the basis for online and print publications.

Draft schedule

21 September: How does poverty affect children and young people?

This session will highlight the way poverty is experienced, including the voices of young people. It will look at the the curtailment of opportunities and experiences and the impact of child poverty on identity, health, learning and self-esteem.

(Blog posts in preparation for this discussion: deadline 14 Sept)

25 November: How do we understand the impact of poverty on learning and achievement?

This session will look at competing explanations of underachievement. It will challenge theories which point fingers of blame at parents, neighbourhoods, teachers and young people themselves. It will open a discussion of which features of schooling in Scotland are helpful in enhancing young people’s development, and which aspects might be exacerbating and reproducing the problem.

(Blog posts: deadline 18 Oct)

3 February: Examining the jigsaw of policies and initiatives.

This session will take a look at key policies designed to assist disadvantaged young people and improve their learning, qualifications and opportunities. It will examine recent and current policies including early years, community schools, literacy hubs, ASL, GIRFEC and the new Scottish Attainment Challenge. Questions will be raised about whether these responses are coherent or contradictory, and whether they get to the heart of the problems. (Blog posts: 4 Jan)

We would welcome your involvement in this project. The CommonSpace Policy channel will be opening itself up to contributions preceding and in the aftermath of each Policy Lab. If you would like to get involved in this project, please email ben@common.scot, To register for the first policy lab on 21 September, email ben@common.scot for an invitation.