Education – the velvet glove to pull you out of poverty

Sunday September 25th 2022


This View has been written by Ellen Scott, Midlothian South Councillor and Cabinet member with responsibility for education, children and young people.

Nelson Mandela famously said “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the World”.

In Midlothian, we are one generation away from our mining heritage and only 160 years away from the law that was passed that put an end to women and children under ten years old from working underground in mines in Britain.

Mining communities knew the importance of a good education. They introduced Reading Rooms into their communities, saw night school as a passport to the future. No miner that I ever knew would want their child to go down the mines. “Stick in at school”, was the mantra you heard every day. Why such importance to education and “sticking in”?

Poverty. The blight of a civilised society is the answer. Miners knew that it was only education that could free them from the manacles of the black diamonds that entrapped them. Only education would allow you to breathe easy in the green countryside that we all love with enough money to clothe and feed your family and maybe a little extra for a holiday. A hand up got you out of poverty and education was the velvet glove to pull you out.

In Gorebridge, when our High School was closed, it closed more than a school. It closed the community. No more children walking or bicycling to school, making friendships that would last life times; no more Youth Training Workshops; no more swimming; no more community education/night schools; no more youth clubs or summer clubs; together with the closure of the pits, it was the death knell of our community. No singing “We don’t want no education” for us – because we did!

The education we want is here and we want it now in our community [is that another song!]. We should be allowed to savour all the same facilities that the other communities in Midlothian take for granted.

Perhaps my passion for a brand new spanking school comes from a childhood without one. St David’s High School, didn’t have a High School and we spent our day walking up and down between King’s Park Primary site and the huts at Ironmills Park. We were given five minutes each side of the period to get up and down – I don’t ever remember a teacher saying the weather was too bad to walk down or up! Drookit and skellpit with the wind, you sat in the class until home time. I only managed to get one term in the new High School at Abbey Road, but I didn’t have time to miss the huts long, because I was fortunate enough to get a place in other Nissan Huts aka Esk Valley College at Gowkshill [now the recycling centre], where employers queued up for the students who were all so well trained.

Maybe that yearning for a lovely new purpose-built school is imbedded in my DNA! But that educational foundation helped, when at 40 I knocked at the door of The University of Edinburgh and it opened up to a magic new world – still old buildings though, just posher ones! Thank you to all the passionate teachers who taught me history, English and all the other subjects that gave me an inquisitive mind and a love of learning. Here I am in my Third Age of my life, still learning.

Schools give children an identity. It fosters their community spirit and pride. They belong somewhere, it is their place in the world and our Midlothian South and Gorebridge children should have that. We know that some of our community live within 20% of the poorest communities in Scotland and that must change. Education is the golden path to achieve it. We might have to be a bit more inventive on how we capture the interests of the kids we need to help with our virtual lasso, but try we definitely will.

I am passionate about a new school for our community because it is more than a school it is my aspiration for all the young folk that live here. It is part of my dream for all the children in Midlothian to go out into the world being the best they can be with a thirst for knowledge and the ability to think for themselves that will never leave them. Let’s put Dickens’ children of Want and Ignorance into the history book they deserve.

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