One kind of invitation I never refuse is to visit a school, for whatever reason, but particularly if it is to help raise a Green Flag or to discuss how to take environmental awareness forward. Colleges and Universities count as well! I have enjoyed my now yearly lecture to the Engineering students at Edinburgh University, my early lectures at Moray House, assisting at symposiums on Greening the Curriculum with Scottish Colleges and with the SQA, and even assisting at the launch two years ago of the new Masters Course in Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh Business School. Just last month my visits included Greengables Nursery School in Craigmillar, Summerside Kindergarten, Broughton High School and St Mary’s Primary in Leith.
Ten years ago Eco-Schools started up in the train of the Grounds for Learning initiative which is still in existence. Now nearly every Primary School is signed up and the majority of secondary schools are taking part. This has been a huge expansion of what is essentially close to a revolution in Scottish education - educating a yearly cadre of ecologically literate young people who can understand why we need to take care of our planet, and what they can do to help. Our young people take a quick understanding of these issues, get deeply involved and never cease to inspire me – I hope my visits inspire them as well, but it really does work both ways.
The introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence has been enthusiastically adopted and taken forward in many of our Primary Schools. I have seen evidence of how well whole school projects can work across Edinburgh. I have also seen evidence of how well children themselves react to active learning, where a wide range of skills can be developed. Outdoor education and education in the outdoors should be at the heart of this. I have spent the last 11 years plugging away at this in the Parliament. I do hope I see a ray of light before I step down. Our education system is far too closely geared to the idea of training young people for jobs rather than equipping them with the transferable skills, adaptability, creativity and confidence to lead full lives both at work and in private and in their communities. Enjoying life to the full onwards and outwards!