Pioneering educational initiative inspires over 1,000 Borders children to become the great historians, digital innovators, business leaders & tour guides of the future
After just six months, a trailblazing new educational initiative at the five-star Great Tapestry of Scotland centre in Galashiels has given over 1,000 Borders children and young people the opportunity to connect with Scotland’s history, heritage and culture, and develop the skills they need to become the greatest storytellers, digital innovators, creative business leaders and tour guides of the future.
Due to its success and interest from schools, colleges and universities across Scotland, the Centre has revealed that they will be extending the unique educational project for another year.
The initiative, which is being delivered in partnership with the Inspire Learning team at Scottish Borders Council, has led to a senior teacher being seconded to a visitor attraction in the region for the first time and the development of exclusive inspiring multi-disciplinary educational resources, lesson plans and activities. It has also provided an opportunity for local pupils to make a key contribution to the new national metaverse playbook for Scottish visitor attractions, and to connect with the Tapestry’s arts, textiles and tourism business partners.
Speaking about the success of the project, Sandy Maxwell-Forbes Centre Director for The Great Tapestry of Scotland at Live Borders said: “It is fantastic to see the very real impact that the Tapestry’s compelling visual storytelling is having on children’s education, inspiration and wellbeing.
“We can see firsthand that it is truly engaging young people in Scotland’s history, heritage and culture. Through stories of Scotland’s great global achievements and influences, it is even helping children who have moved here from other countries to feel even more connected to their new home.
“We’re incredibly grateful to Inspire Learning and all our supporters for helping to make this all possible. We hope to secure additional funding in the months ahead, so that even more pupils across the Borders and beyond can benefit from this fantastic experience for free.
“We would love for our attraction to inspire the next generation of great Scottish historians, storytellers, creative business leaders, tour guides and pioneers.”
Lesley Munro, the Director of Education and Lifelong Learning at Scottish Borders Council added: “We are committed to delivering transformational learning experiences that support young people across the Scottish Borders, so we are absolutely thrilled that this pilot with The Great Tapestry of Scotland has already had such great success in helping to achieve this.
“We hope that this will become the first of many similar partnerships with Borders visitor attractions, where we can help to map experiences to the Curriculum for Excellence, raise attainment, inspire future leaders and innovators in tourism and support our local economy for the long-term.”
The Tapestry’s education programme has been designed to meet the Curriculum for Excellence’s aspiration for all children and young people to develop the skills they need to become ‘successful learners’, ‘confident individuals’, ‘responsible citizens’ and ‘effective contributors’.
Pauline Copeland, Headteacher at St Peter’s Primary School in Galashiels explained the impact this has had for her pupils: “The Great Tapestry of Scotland’s education programme is developed and delivered by a qualified teacher, so not only have our pupils been captivated by the Tapestry’s many stories, but the experience has also met the educational needs of the children as identified in the national curriculum.
“It has allowed us to access high-caliber creative learning opportunities, which are an important part of our curriculum, including a visit from the distinguished Tapestry artist Andrew Crummy. We would never have been able to access this quality of opportunity without this brilliant new visitor attraction on our doorstep.”
Recognising the devastating impact of the cost-of-living crisis on many local families, the team at The Great Tapestry of Scotland (which is operated by cultural, sports and leisure charity Live Borders) sourced funding from a range of trusts and community groups so that schools across the Scottish Borders could participate in their educational programme for free. Funders included the Heywood Sanderson Trust, Langlee Residents’ Association, and the Galashiels Focus Centre. Developing The Young Workforce, an organisation which bridges the gap between workforce and education, paid for buses to bring pupils from Selkirk High School to the centre.
Highlighting what this meant for pupils in the Borders, Jenna Swan, Principal Teacher of Humanities at Selkirk High School said: “The Learning Festival at the Tapestry was an absolutely amazing experience for our pupils. It allowed them to develop a huge range of skills such as creativity and teamwork as well as getting a wonderful understanding of the importance of the Tapestry and key moments in Scottish history. It’s such a fantastic resource for us to have on our doorstep! Lots of students commented that they were planning to visit again.”
In addition to engaging pupils with Scotland’s history, heritage, culture, digital innovation and creativity, the project is helping to inspire and develop the young workforce of the future. Through the Great Tapestry of Scotland’s own business partnership network, it has helped schools to fosters closer links with other visitor attractions, businesses and Heriot Watt University.
With support from Traveltech for Scotland (traveltech.scot), ASVA (The Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions) and the Scottish Tourism Leadership Programme, the Great Tapestry of Scotland even gave some Borders’ pupils the opportunity to work with leading traveltech company New Frontier to develop NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) and contribute to Scotland’s new metaverse playbook for visitor attractions.
Most recently, staff at the visitor centre trained a group of pupils from St Peter’s Primary School in Galashiels to become tour guides. Explaining the benefits of this approach teacher Ann Rutherford said: “Our pupils were very excited to become Tapestry Tour Guides and show off their new-found historical knowledge and storytelling skills to friends and family. Opportunities like this will help to give them some of the vital skills and confidence they need to excel in business in the future.”
One of the P6 tour guides Kamsi Nwaeze (aged 10) said: “I enjoyed writing our own tour guide scripts and doing the application forms. The Tapestry is very cool and there are lots of zones to explore. The panels are so filled with lots of history. I have learned loads.”
Fostering intergenerational engagement, the budding tour guides will soon be given the opportunity to use their new-found skills to tell residents from local sheltered housing all about the Tapestry’s stories.
Summarising the programme’s success to date, the Great Tapestry of Scotland education officer, Michelle Sterricks, who is also the Principal Teacher of Social, Business and RME Studies at Jedburgh Grammar Campus, said: “It’s been brilliant to support the development of creative and digital skills in Borders schools through sharing the Great Tapestry of Scotland’s many magical and inspiring stories. From history, English and storytelling to music, science, art, design, sport – The Tapestry is filled with huge multi-disciplinary educational opportunities.”
Ewan Jackson, CEO of Live Borders said: “This pioneering initiative has allowed us to explore how we can further support education and attainment and give children and young people the best start in life. We look forward to continuing to work with Inspire Learning across all our attractions in the years ahead.”
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