The Fantastic Four of Southcraig Campus
An inspirational chat with four awesome students… truly the ’Fantastic Four’.
On the 10th November I had the honour of meeting four remarkable young adults at Southcraig Campus, Ayr. Their teacher, Yvonne, had written to the Fairer Scotland Team [via the mailbox!] inviting me to talk with the fantastic pupils of Southcraig campus, who had something to say about a ‘Fairer Scotland by 2030’.
The students of Southcraig are all on the autism spectrum and often have very complex additional and/or supporting needs. There are 97 students, from pre-school to 19 years-of-age, with a comparable number of teachers on-hand to support through their school years.
Some of the students need one-one support. The four students I met with – Harley, Rory, Louis and Zoe – were in the senior phase of their schooling, aged between 15 and 19. My fantastic four, all of whom have additional and complex needs in everyday life and learning.
We started with an explanation of the Fairer Scotland initiative and discussed how it was important to have our say in this. We then focused on what fair and unfair mean, using scenarios on cards to decide if a situation was fair or unfair.
The four picked 6 topics that were of most importance to them. Over a five week period they discussed the topics and articulated their thoughts of ’what mattered to them?’ on a poster and a video.
What was different?
Through the entire Fairer Scotland journey – meeting dozens of communities and organisations – the team often returned to a central issue. That of Social inequality. This visit was no different.
What was different was the way the four described their vision for the future, designing their own posters to express what they believed Scotland would look like. In fact, what a fairer country looks like.
Not only did they design an amazing poster, but they also had the courage to stand up and speak about their ideal world as part of an ‘SVQ N2 Talking and Listening’ class award. They delivered their visions with confidence and pride – in front of the camera (something that a lot of people would find too intimidating to even contemplate).
What mattered to them?
Some of the common elements central to the Fairer Scotland conversation include areas like housing, welfare reform, health and income and employment. However, Harley, Rory, Louis and Zoe’s focused on:
- Being safe
- Being healthy
- Being Equal and
- Being included.
The leading light for the Fantastic Four was their wonderful teacher, Yvonne Cameron. From the outset, Yvonne was on-hand to help them with their conversation, ensuring the students said what they wanted to say.
“We started with an explanation of the Fairer Scotland initiative and discussed how it was important to have our say in this. We then focused on what fair and unfair mean, using scenarios on cards to decide if a situation was fair or unfair.
We moved on to discuss what is important to young people in a Fairer Scotland. Each week we looked at a different aspect eg. money, jobs, equality, good health, being safe, being valued and most importantly for our young people, inclusion. We discussed this fully and then videoed each individual pupil’s input. During the Scottish Government visit we looked at all of the contributions and challenged our young people to narrow their suggestions down to the most important item to them under each heading.
This has been a really interesting and enlightening project. I have known these four young people for several years and through this class I know a lot more about what is important to them.”
Sure enough, all four students had a lot to say about the kind of Scotland we all want to see.
Zoe would like to see:
- Being equal – people who sign should get the same chances
- Money – families should have enough so that poor people can get home
- Being healthy – looking after the environment keeps us healthy
- Being included – people should play together and not leave anybody out
- Jobs – jobs should have good wages
- Being safe – tell the police if you are getting bullied. If you don’t, they can’t help you.
Zoe is interested in drama and is a very confident and articulated speaker. She said she was nervous, but you would never have known. She was brilliant. Zoe is the youngest of the group and explained that she often feels safer at home – just now, she couldn’t think about being on her own.
Rory would like to see:
- Being equal – people in wheelchairs should get the same chances
- Money – more money to live on my own and money to go to college
- Being healthy – going to the dentist gives me healthy teeth
- Being included – ramps for buildings
- Jobs – to learn skills to go to work
- Being safe – hospitals keep us safe.
Rory would like to be able to live on his own one day. He was very shy, but delivered his story very well, and was proud that he done it. We all were. Rory was very interested in ensuring he had the opportunity to speak up for his friends in school. He felt many of them would not feel confident speaking out about the issues and difficulties they face, on a day-to-day basis. He explained that many of them felt they simply didn’t have the same chances as others, because they were in a wheelchair. It was a very admirable and thoughtful gesture, and I was taken back by Rory’s selflessness in thinking about his fellow students.
Harley – AKA ‘Miss Chatterbox’ – was on the ball from the outset, and a fantastic host. Harley wanted to see:
- Being equal – boys and girls have the same chances
- Money – more money for people to buy food
- Being healthy – opportunities to go to free dancing and exercise classes keeps us healthy
- Being included – everybody should have the chance to play
- Jobs – work experience like “work out” will help me get a job
- Being safe – I don’t want to live on my own. I want to stay with my mum and dad. They keep me safe.
Harley’s passion is dancing and exercise and she often accompanies her sister, a dance teacher, at classes. She loves keeping fit and being a social butterfly. Harley is the oldest of the group and it was clear that she really cares for her fellow students and the teachers. She really does have a heart of gold.
Louis is a tall, strong, strapping lad who can’t wait to live on his own. All he wants is to be treated as an adult, and the thriving 17-year-old he is – not as a child. Louis is passionate about web access for all, so he can learn and gather advice on things that he is interested in.
- Being equal – everyone should have access to Youtube
- Money – we need more money in schools to buy things for leisure time and fun
- Being healthy – getting the chance to eat cheap healthy food and drink bottled water
- Being included – people should treat me the age I am
- Jobs – get the chance to go to work
- Being safe – watch out for animals. Keep animals safe. I don’t want to see animals run over.
My Fantastic Four were uber excited to have us along as it gave them the chance to have their voices heard by the Scottish Government. They put a lot of time and effort into their projects and were delighted that they could showcase them for us.
From the outset of the Fairer Scotland conversation, the Scottish Government wanted to engage with and encourage people across Scotland – in particular those with lived experiences of inequalities and who don’t normally get the chance to discuss the things that are important to them.
Harley, Rory, Louis and Zoe certainly did that – and in the most dynamic, interesting and fun way. It really was a truly memorable experience.
The Fairer Scotland conversation is on-going. We want to make sure we continue to engage with those who have helped us through this journey so far. Now, we plan to delve a bit deeper into “what’s changed?” and “what still has to be done?“.
My Fantastic Four are going to help me kick start this next chapter, and I’ll make sure they are very much part of this adventure. ‘Real Lives, Real People’.
Watch this space.
Southcraig Campus, Ayr
Southcraig Campus, Ayr, is a Primary and secondary special school for pupils with additional support needs.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.