Working with primary and secondary schools
Working with local primary and secondary schools is a key way that many members of the University engage with local communities.
This engagement includes departmental and individual work to widen access to higher education, ongoing outreach projects that complement the school curriculum, continuing professional development for teachers, and ad hoc school visits. Most of these activities would be done by staff and students as part of their University role, but there are many parents and carers among the University’s community who are also involved with schools in a personal capacity.
There is currently no single point-of-contact at the University which can provide an overview of all the work being done with schools, either locally or further afield. The University’s Widening Participation team necessarily focuses on schools where progression to higher education is traditionally lower, and operates mainly through specific recurring programmes. The University’s Moray House School of Education and Sport also, naturally, has a wealth of school connections, but the School is still only one part of the University.
We do know that some schools in Edinburgh and the surrounding area receive a lot of attention from universities, and approaches by the same University are not always coordinated. Some schools will also be the target of focussed, strategic support from the University’s Widening Participation team.
Things to consider
Given the context, the Community Team would encourage you to consider the following if you’re planning to engage with local schools:
1. How does what I can offer fit with the Scottish curriculum?
If you’re not familiar with the curriculum, here is your first job! You may find these resources helpful:
- Curriculum for Excellence benchmarks
- College of Science and Engineering guidance on developing online learning resources
- Guidance for parents in Scotland on curriculum levels
2. How much time will this require of school staff, if any? Are they likely to have this time – either now, or in the future?
3. Can I offer what I’m doing on a recurring basis, so that the school can come to rely on it and deal with fewer new requests? (Anecdotal feedback from schools is that one-off activities are less useful.)
4. Which schools do I want to engage with, and why? Is what I can offer likely to be useful to these particular schools?
5. Have I done a quick check e.g. searching the University’s website for the school’s name, or checking out the Widening Participation SharePoint site to get a sense of if the University is working with the school already?
6. Do I need to join the PVG (Protection of Vulnerable Groups) scheme?
There is also excellent, more in-depth guidance available in this presentation from the Widening Participation team on planning a Widening Participation or schools outreach activity:
If you have any questions after doing the above, you are welcome to contact the Community Team who will try and answer your question, or else connect you to the person who can:
You are also welcome to simply contact us to tell us what you’re doing – it’s always helpful to know, and it may make a good website story one day!
The following key links are also very useful:
- Widening Participation SharePoint site
- Edinburgh Local case studies of the University’s work with local schools
- Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre Schools Programme
- University services for teachers, careers advisers and schools
If working with local primary and secondary schools is a significant, ongoing part of your role at the University and you would find it helpful to discuss practical matters with colleagues, you may wish to request to join the University’s Working with Schools Microsoft Team.