Erin McAuley, 19, a Labour activist and student teacher at the University of Stirling, says education was her golden ticket and is our best chance to improve lives across Scotland.
The power of education has changed my life. It has been my golden ticket to where I am today and my passport to discover the world around me and my capabilities. Education continues to take me places and help me accomplish things that were once unimaginable.
Education gave me a purpose and a focus. It gave me a route up and out during a very uncertain and difficult time in my personal life. I was lucky enough to have supportive teachers who believed in me, supported me and empowered me to use my education as a source of opportunity to strive for better, not fall through the cracks as many predicted.
I believe that the biggest, best and most critical investment any country can make is in education. The attainment gap starts well beyond the school gates but education has the ability to be a key tool in reducing poverty, erase oppression and give people a chance in life.
I strongly feel it’s the most powerful weapon anyone can use. It is the foundation for peace and prosperity and it is the power of education that enables each of us to be agents of change.
The immeasurable and valuable impact my own teachers and education has played in my life has motivated me to train to become a teacher. Teaching is the only profession that creates every other profession. It opens hearts and minds and shapes the future.
I want to be a young person’s champion, role model and inspiration just like my teachers were for me. Every child and young person deserves a champion in their life, someone who won’t give up on them, or judge or stigmatise them because of their circumstances or postcode.
We all deserve someone who will help us discover our capabilities and succeed. I know teaching has the ability to do that. I don’t say this because of quotes I’ve seen or education books I’ve read, but because I have experienced for myself how influential a teacher can be in a person’s life.
I was never top of my class, I never achieved straight A grades or 100% in any class test but I never gave up. Getting to where I am has not been an easy ride. Even right now at university I feel the burden of being a working class student every single day and experience the barriers in education that have yet to be eradicated.
No government can credibly claim to close an attainment gap whilst slashing council budgets. Underfunding and cutting into education is not just a cut to resources in the classroom – it’s a cut to our country’s future.
Education is the biggest tool we can ever use to make Scotland a stronger, fairer and more prosperous country.
This is why it makes me sad and angry at the state of education in Scotland. It makes me frustrated that in a time when our education standards are so low and poverty in our country is so high the SNP government’s only focus is another independence referendum. Imagine this energy, passion and money was used to create a world class education system that ensures every child has the opportunity to succeed and be who they want to be? Maybe then we could truly close the attainment gap.