Spartan Race

•September 4, 2013 • Leave a Comment

This is the first post in a long time but it is an important one.

I will be running ‘The Spartan Race’ on September the 15th in Edinburgh. I will be running this event in aid of a special needs school in Edinburgh called Oaklands.

The aim is to help them fundraise towards many of the expensive equipment needed to cater for the different needs of the children that go there.

The staff do a some amazing work and work across the spectrum with some truly wonerful kids.

My little cousin is autistic and the work of the staff at oaklands has had a massive impact on the quality of his life and social ineractions. It has become a safe haven away from home and somewhere he looks foward to going to. For anyone who has had contact with autistic people that is a hugely important and rare thing for many of them to feel.

I want to do something good to give back to a school and staff that work so hard with so many children with difficult backgrounds.

So I decided I would put myself through a grueling 5k obstacle course. Now while the run doesn’t sound very difficult to begin with I can assure you some of these obstacles are pretty tough, from pits of ice cubes to men with big double ended staffs that clobber you as you run past. It won’t be easy and I won’t pretend I amn’t a little terrified I won’t break an ankle. However it is in aid of charity so I will have to grit my teeth and do my best!

Below is a donate button that links to paypal, and and all donations no matter how small will be greatly appreciated and make a huge difference to the quality of life of some of the most wonderful kids.

Thank you all in advance.

I will keep this page updated with embaressing photos of me dressed as a spartan/running the race

as well as the grand total of funds raised.

P.S check out the website for the race itself *gulp*

Conor

< http://www.spartanrace.com/edinburgh-obstacle-racing-spartan-sprint-2013.html >

Donate Button

Why conference makes me all gooey inside….

•March 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

For those of you who don’t have the good fortune of following me on twitter or have me as a Facebook friend. You will have missed my continuous barrage of updates about NUS Scotland conference that just passed in Dundee this weekend ( #nusscot13).

NUS Scotland Conference is the sovereign political event for NUS Scotland, where all the decision-making, elections, policy formation and accountability happens. Students from across Scotland representing their College or University made their way to Dundee this weekend to among other things elect a new Scottish President.

So that is the brief background, I want to talk a little about conference and why I am so excited for what happens next. For the people who were actually at conference or involved in students unions (or even the odd hack or two that still likes to keep an eye on things). You will have seen many posts about wins and losses of delegates that stood for elections at NUS. Whats amazing about conference is it isn’t always about who wins (though that is vitally important). It is about people standing up and shaping the debate, bringing issues to the table, that will be remembered. In the election I ran we had a range of students all standing with different backgrounds, College president, university president a post-graduate student and a returning officer that’s just an engaged full-time student. That was reflected in all the elections throughout the weekend. What was truly wonderful was the fact so many first time delegates felt welcomed enough and where openly encouraged to stand in those elections and challenge people like me who were running . It speaks testament to the legendary friendly nature of conference, and better yet was reflected in the presidential campaign which was nothing short of fantastic on both sides.

For some people all of this will be a little lost on you, and for that I apologise, but if I tried to explain it all fully this blog post would be ten pages long, I am more interested in the impact and importance and highlighting the overall ‘what happened ‘ at conference, rather than individual candidate wins.

I can’t bang on about this enough but the most rewarding part of this weekend is talking to membership, to students, to extraordinary everyday students who go the extra mile to make things better, from fighting against fees to better support services for mental health on campus. They are the life blood of NUS and the student movement and will be the engaged and active citizens of the future. I am proud NUS gets to play a wee part in shaping these people and giving these officers and students a chance to feel empowered and excited going forward into another year that will be laden with highs and lows.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a campaigner at heart, I love to engage, because I am passionate I think when you show how much you care, whether that’s by talking or listening then you inspire people to feel important, that what they have to say, matters, that you want their opinion and engagement and theirs a chance to change something. So having two days to wander around conference meeting bright eyed, bushy-tailed and eager students and having a oppurtunity to engage with them is an opportunity I don’t take for granted. It is as simple as just saying ‘Hi, I’m Conor, I’m an elected representative, any questions any qualms, come chat to me, I’m here to be accountable to you and make your time at conference the best it can be’. Or even more simply ‘Hi Im Conor, who are you, tell me about yourself’ Whether it is your first or tenth conference that’s exactly the kind of welcoming faces we need, NUS + unions face the criticism far too often of being cliquey and exclusive, and while we get it right most of the time we need to challenge that view and work hard to make sure every student feels comfortable at our events. I met some genuinely fantastic officers who just wowed me with the work they do day in day out trying to transform lives and make a difference. People who have faced all kinds of adversity, the strength of individuals in the movement never cease to amaze me, and when we pull that all together its no wonder NUS and the students that get involved (and associations and volunteers on every campus) are known all over a sa force to be reckoned with that win time and time again. To Mike Russell’s Dissapointment.

Though I still think NUS Scotland leads on this and its shown by the sheer number of candidates choosing to get involved in elections, speeches, accountability and even campaigning for other candidates! (A side note, BIGGEST CONFERECNE EVER). *Jazz hands*

Conference is one of the most exhausting experiences imaginable, I am physically and emotionally spent, from a rollercoaster of emotions over election wins and losses. From the hours of preparation, motion writing, membership consultation and even the odd squabble behind the scenes between us nus officers trying to make conference the best it can be! Even though im literally exhausted, I feel so happy, so proud for a number of reasons.

Why I am chuffed.

1. The delegates of this conference passed a comprehensive list of fantastic policy that will really drive us forward in the coming year and have given the new SEC (Scottish Executive Committee) and full-time officers an incredible mandate going forward.

2. So many happy delegates Just the sheer positive attitude of delegates walking away feeling enthused, This is important because these officers and students will be going back on campus to talk about the exciting stuff NUS will be doing in the next year, but that doesn’t happen without their input and hard work. So we need them to be excited for it.

3. We passed some stellar policy this conference, I am proud to say we passed a motion in support for gender quotas on Boards of Managements and even prouder to say I voted in favour of this alongside an overwhelming majority of conference. Which will bring NUS Scotlands views in line with that of  the NUS Women’s campaign and rightly so. Alongside a real vision for education motion, a ‘tax the rich to fund education’, and a whole raft of policies on Community and social issues that look at student in their wider place in society not just education and funding.

4. Personally a thank you to all the officers and students who put up with my election chat, supported me, campiagned for me,  the feedback was fantastic, informative, and will hopefully mean that if you didnt know me before conference, you know what I stand for now, and you can feel comfortable in getting in touch on any issue. Being re-elected is massivly humbling especially agianst such fantastic candidates I was running against.

Things change pretty rapidly in the world of student politics, every year or two due to the nature of how long officers can run in institutions and NUS you tend to find old officers leaving and new ones coming in. Seeing such powerful officers leave us and move on is sad but gives me hope as they move on to go out into the ‘real world’ and fulfill even bigger roles out there fighting the good fight, staying a friend to the student movement and the work we do (see my bit about hacks that keep ears and eyes in the movement). Seeing the next generation of officers coming in is really powerful and exciting, especially to hear that so many of them have decided they want to run, based on the work of the officers that came before them. I hold a personal belief you should be  inspiring the people who take up your role after you finish to be even better than you.

Now personally I am rather sad, and cried more than a few tears that our very own Graeme Kirkpatrick (Vice President Education), Is moving on to better and bigger things, I shouldn’t have to explain why he has been awesome, he has put colleges at the heart of NUS, changed the way everyone views what officers from college backgrounds can achieve and has brought amazing vision, leadership and strategy to the newly formed ‘Team Education’ that will give his replacement a strong steer on how to go forward and develop it even more. Now that’s all the outward membership facing spiel I need to give. Personally Graeme has just been the dream, I consider him the closest thing to a mentor, He took me, a newly elected SEC member for education, that had no knowledge of education policy, quality and helped challenge me to come up with my own ideas around education, to think critically about the issues facing students and how to lead by example and be a good role model on SEC for the membership. Without him I wouldn’t have become that officer, less than one year on who could stand up in a room of a 150 people and argue for a comprehensive vision of education and explain why we need policy of college quality review, and the importance of student partnership agreements. I wouldn’t have changed into the education geek I am now if it wasn’t for the leadership of Graeme and my admiration for the hard work he has put in over the years. I will truly miss him and I am sad to be losing a mentor and friend that I genuinely look forward too working with on a daily basis. Earning his respect and winning re-election are two things I am personally very proud of gaining this weekend.

So conference has spoken, We have elected a NEW SEC, New full-time officers, passed our motions and set our priorities for the year. Most importantly we have engaged and hopefully enthused student officers and volunteers to go back and make wins on their campus, that will continue to engage with us (NUS Scotland) In the next year. It is all very exciting. I am proud to be involved but this wasn’t just a post about any particular election will, It was about what we achieved from this weekend, the lasting impact it can have, and how going forward we best use that to make real wins for students and change lives. Remember you can hold us to account on that if we don’t ;).

So this is one happy, exhausted delegate that feels very proud after a busy few days. I look forward to making changes on and off your campus.

P.s excuse any mistakes or lack of coherence. It’s been a long weekend, like most delegates conference isn’t for sleeping and the weekend can leave you feeling rather frazzled.

p.p.s To the new SEC and elected officers, amazing, well done, Can’t wait to be working with you. commiserations to all the awesome candidates that ran, don’t give up, don’t stop being involved, we need you, you helped shape the debate!!!!!

Conor Murray-Gauld

NUS Scotland Education Campaign Convenor

‘The Big Picture’

•March 13, 2013 • 2 Comments

“All that is required for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing.”

Edmund Burke

 It’s really hard to get people to see the big picture sometimes. I spend a lot of my time in my many different roles, part time employment, elected positions locally and nationally, home life and even just online, experiencing both blood boiling anger and heartbreaking disappointment at peoples disregard for really important issues.

Now granted I meet tons of students, officers, activists and regular every day people who engage at all different levels and care in some shape or form, and that is really inspiring and keeps me sane! However the amount of people I meet on a day to day basis, who just don’t care or don’t get why these issues are important is just staggering.

Now for me Education is the biggy, I believe its not something we can look at in isolation though time and time again we find people only concerned with ‘what has this got to do with me’. This needs to stop. While it is understandable that people are concerned about themselves (it is a survival thing I get that). We cannot view Heriot-watt issues in a bubble and we certainly can’t view aspects of education in one either. So Further education like colleges and higher education like universities, even secondary education like High schools should not be viewed as separate, they are all interlinked and a change in one can have a massive impact on the others.

You only have to look just south of the border to see that fluctuations in their education system can have a massive impact on us too. This year will be the first round of ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ students entering the doors of universities, many universities are now trying to figure out how they will need to adapt to accommodate a very different type of student. So when cuts to colleges happen, we can’t claim ignorance that;
‘It doesn’t affect me, cuts have to happen somewhere’ or even worse; ‘You are a uni student, why are you wasting your time on this?’

I don’t believe we should only be serving the students of the present; we have a duty to protect our future students, the students yet to come and our future generation. We should be protecting opportunities for access to higher education. Cuts to colleges may not seem like it affects you, or changes our campus – but it does. In the long run, a student who can’t make it into college because of devastating cuts won’t ever make it onto our campus. The student, who doesn’t receive the same quality of education, is then a student who will be asked to repeat years of study unnecessarily at their own expense.

This isn’t just about cuts or protecting education (though that is REALLLLLLY IMPORTANT). It is about realising that we don’t live in a bubble. Heriot-Watt doesn’t live in a bubble, whether it’s UKBA revoking visas for international students or Theresa May trying to rip up your human rights (and civil liberties for that matter too). These issues impact you and your friends, in some way, shape or form. It’s not good enough to shrug our shoulders and bury our heads in the sand.

There is hope though, I have had the pleasure to work with some amazing people, who go out there and slog their guts out to tell you about the issues that matter, that will campaign, blister their feet and make themselves ill fighting for something bigger than them. Oh so desperate to educate and engage, even if you don’t agree with them, they want nothing more for you to take an interest and stand up for something. They want to create as many active, informed citizens as they can with a voice and will to use it. That is the sort of thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.

The jaded cynics among you will claim I’m fighting a battle I can’t possibly win, I disagree, but it isn’t always about the end outcome of politicians’ votes or the policy passed. This is bigger than that, it is about winning hearts and minds,  standing up for what you believe in, and if all I achieve at the end of my time as an officer is making one students life better, or getting someone that bit more involved, then I will walk away with my head held high.

So next time you see me banging on about something on Facebook or see someone with a cause or petition, with passion burning in their eyes. Don’t be so quick to shrug your shoulders and tell them it doesn’t affect you because on some level, we are all connected through our education, it all matters, and you are not an island.

 

Conor Murray-Gauld

Heriot-Watt Executive for campaigns

NUS Scotland Education Campaign Convenor

#demo2012

#demo2012

 

‘What do you think stars are made of?’

•January 2, 2013 • 2 Comments

A few months ago I purchased a game on steam along with the soundtrack for around £6. I had found it on a list of ’20 games you won’t have heard of this year’ It had a quirky trailer which can be viewed here: To The Moon – Trailer  and it looked like a throwback to classic RPG’s (that’s role-playing games for you non gamers) in the same vein as chrono trigger, star ocean, final fantasy with a bit of a Zelda look to it set in super stylised 16bit ‘SNES graphics’.

I didn’t expect much from the game other than the promise of an enjoyable game with a nice story and pretty soundtrack. Boy did i get so much more than that. My life sort of took over and I never got an evening free to sit down and actually try the game. But tonight I did, it only took me a handful of hours to complete but it was totally worth it, one of the most engrossing games I have ever played. Not in the same way you World of Warcraft keeps you grinding well past it being fun, or COD keeps your finger firmly on the trigger long after firing it has dulled your senses through clever skinner box theory and play/reward conditioning. No ‘To The Moon’ had me hooked because of its deeply engaging yet simple narrative.

At its heart To the moon feels a bit like ‘Time travellers wife’ or Notebook, a love story that comes with all the highs and lows one would expect. The catch in this particular one? It plays like Nolan’s exquisite movie ‘Memento’. You play as two ‘scientists’ Eva and Neil, who want to grant Johnny, a dying man, his last wish. To go to the moon. Using a system that reminds me of ‘eternal sunshine of the spotless mind’ you recreate a facsimile of new memories using Johnny’s old memories to create a past that allowed him to achieve the dreams he never did

(Don’t worry I’m not spoilering anything that isn’t explained in the opening scene).

I think what makes this one step above a lot of the ‘romantic love stories’ you see in movie or book format is the fact you are so much more immersed when it is a video game. I felt deeply engaged with the characters and the story arc, I felt like I was living Johnny’s life and I felt like I was connected to all the characters within the story, I felt his pain and his joy, I laughed at the dual personalities of the ‘odd couple’ scientists who you share seeing Johnnys life through their eyes. It’s a wonderfully engrossing experience. That I just simply couldn’t put down.

I have no shame in admitting that by the 3rd act I was in tears. Like any good story it comes with humour, revelations, plot twists, shock reveals, drama, sadness, and finally pulls it all together for the epilogue. It’s a truly heartwarming tale by the guys over at ‘Freebird games’. It has solid writing, a great story, strong consistent characters with simple yet intuitive mechanics and excellent puzzles to break up the story along with a soundtrack to rival the best scores in video game history. It’s a perfect blend of storytelling and gameplay with purpose. I highly recommend you give it a go! Even if you don’t particularly like video games I’m of the opinion you don’t need to be to play, enjoy and appreciate this. It’s not so much a game but a beautifully immersive EXPERIENCE.

If nothing else give this song a wee listen, it’s all the more heartbreaking/elevating once you’ve played the game!

To The Moon does something few video games have ever managed to do, and that is make people cry. I consider myself a particularly soppy/hopeless romantic git *que violins* but The death of a certain Final Fantasy 7 character when i was aged 9 was the only time I shed a tear at the loss of character and felt such deep pangs. It was a breakthrough in video games, something the industry that is so often associated with nothing but misogyny and violence had achieved. Best yet, people the world over sat in their homes and played this wonderful game and experienced it differently, even the people who played the exact same game felt and reacted differently (yes SOME COLD HEARTED BASTARDS DON’T CARE AERITH DIED!). BUT dear readers, this is a wonderful thing… because everyone claims video games can’t be art, because the games limit the experience and individuality of someones experience, because the game takes the user on a path that can never truly be open as the mechanics and limit of the game stop it. On this I concede games can’t be limitless but the experience of the individual playing it can be infinite and unique to that individual just like art.

Many people who shared that same moment of joy, fear, anger or even felt nothing at the death of Aerith will experience something totally different when playing To The Moon, and that is exactly what we want, for video games to truly move forward as a medium gaming has to be able to create those experiences, I’m not calling for every game to be like that, but we as game players can;t  be afraid to have those experiences and for designers to feel comfortable to explore those types of games, for it not to be so out there and unique, nor so obscure or indie. I get terrified that games have lost something for all their advancement and shiny graphics I haven’t found a game that quite hooked me like the RPG’s of old, my passion for gaming hasn’t changed so why haven’t the games evoked  that for me ? but then I find a hidden gem like this, and I fall in love all over again (and my faith is restored). To the moon took a simple premise and made it relatable, the reason video games in my opinion can be art, because they can imitate life, they can look at life through a different lens, they can create parodies and facsimiles or even duplicates and refract our lives to the way the designers see fit, whether that is to tell a story or create a moment of pure beauty, but no matter how hard a designer wants to convey a message it can always be interpreted by the individual who experiences it, just the same as an artist and their paint brush can only paint the canvas, what the individual takes away from that is truly unique to that person that comes from all their past decisions and experiences that culminates in what they take away from it. For that same reason video games can be so much more powerful for better or worse, good or bad an immersive version of that same experience, that require input and time and investment, can have an amazing pay off, and tonight, that’s exactly what I had.

I’m partly ranting now, but this blog post wasn’t actually something I was planning to write, but I just loved this little gem of a game so much I had to talk about it post SOMETHING about it. I highly recommend it to ANYONE if nothing else check out the trailer and give the song another we listen.

P.s Happy New Year! What a beautiful way to start 2013!

Tis the season to be healthy….falalalala lalalala

•December 19, 2012 • Leave a Comment

So some of you who may have me on facebook will have noticed I’m on a bit of a health kick. Yes folks you did hear me right, I am going on a diet/lifestyle change this festive period.

‘Madness!’ I hear you cry… well no, here is my reasoning and I’ll even explain why I have turned this into a blog post.

Many of you will know that I lead a pretty hectic lifestyle, between my two elected positions, my two part time job and a full time university course (3rd year no doubt) I spend a lot of time travelling at events, studying or working. (I might only be a volunteer but my elected positions keep me on my toes). I don’t really have days off if i’m being honest but thats ok, For the most part I like it like that. I think I am a slight workaholic.

It’s not a very condusive lifestyle for people who love the gym or want to keep fit by its very nature and even if it wasn’t for the fact I have no time (or energy) to go to the gym being on the road and the go almost all day every day leads to bad diet choices (sometimes out of either fast food now or starve all day sort of choices). So exams are over and I’m working full time in GAME so now is the time i have decided I have a lull to get my ass back in gear and try to get a healthy routine, not just getting to the gym and exercising but a matra of eating right for a healthier mind body and soul. I’m putting this online because it’s another step of commitment because I really damn want this, I’ve done this before and seen positive results, my time in the states was high intensity job wiith lots of physical exercise and gyming in warm weather for an entire summer, And I had never looked better, unfortunatly the upkeep was unrelaistic coming back to the chaos of my normal everyday life.

This is an attempt to fix that, people in general have a habit of not looking after numero uno especially when it comes to health, Sabbatical officers and even elected volunteers are worse for it, wether its the responsibility of the job or just the pressure and focus that comes with it we have a tendancy to forget about us (though we seem to spend all our time fighting for the best for others and telling other people to look after themselves).  A friend of mine posted a blog on the matter not long ago It was interesting to see just how many sabbs and officers (and staff) who all agreed they don’t take nearly as much time as they should to keep themselves fighting fit. So this here is my declaration of intent broken down into some easy goals I will bulletpoint below. I will be documenting my progress over the next 6 weeks, but I will also be imparting knowledge, recommendations, uploading hilarious photos of me a mess after the gym and possibly fod ideas and recipes. In some hope it benefits someone else, or this blog encourages YOU. To remember and take time to keep yourself healthy in all aspects, spend time with loved ones and take a moment to relax. Even if its jut long enough to take a deep breath, It makes the world of a difference (honest).

With that in mind spare a thought for me this festive season while you tuck into booze and mince pies i’ll be off the sauce and eating fruit!
Maybe it’s time some of you think about starting that new years resolution a few weeks early?

My instructor is a a personal trainer with 14 years experience, an absolute good health encyclopedia who doesnt just give you a workout or shout at you to run faster but builds up a picture of your life and slots in how to make it better not just for the 6 weeks, but build good habits to last a life time, and it shows in his clients I have met and spoke with. VERY EXCITING! I now have a work plan and food diary to work towards That  I mut document If I want to hit my targets!

 

If you want to understand the sort of extremes this workou regime is today after my first session I actually was physically sick (not helped by my lack of sleep and food before my session but alas a lesson for next time).

 

So its out with cheerios and in with the oats, out with my bread (This makes me whince unbelievable) and In with chicken and fresh spinach. Down with eating a full meal at 1am and a change to grazing small meals all day long with lots of healthy exercise and SLEEP in between.

In 6 weeks I plan too:

Lose around 1 stone and 5 pounds.

get my lean % body weight up. Increase my muscle mass

Improve my core strength, flexibility, cardio and conditionung.

Make positive dietary changes that will have long term effects on my health and build good habits!

Ultimate dream would be a six pack but lets take baby steps ehh?

 

Wish me luck!!

sign up to the www.fundscotlandsfuture.org

•December 8, 2012 • Leave a Comment

For many people Education  is a second chance, It gives people oppurtunities to become not just more skilled bu have more oppurtunities, not just for themselves but for their families. College Is a second chance for students who are shut out of education or never reach the doors of it in the first place. They are a vital services that transform lives, My family benefited from my parents being able to go back. Many of my closest friends have had amazing life changing experiences becuase of the oppurtunity colleges offered

I want a fair education system for when my siblings grow up, so they can access whatever form of education they want. I want colleges protected because of the social good they provide that everyone benefits from. We protected free education for scottish students, we won the battle on greater student support, and last year we absolutely completely and utterly convinced the government that college student support should not cut and that not only students but the public would not stand for it, with an astonishing 80,000 emails flooding MSP’s Inbox and storming the political and social agenda.

This year colleges face another 34 million pound cut to teaching, that will effect frontline services that directly affects students. It will mean the possible closure of courses, cut back in staff hours and even affect the level of qualification some students could end up with, Pasrt time places have een slashed, college admissions are down 26% for women and the regionilasation agenda puts many of our colleges in dark situations.

You have the power to change this! Like always we have won soooo many times. We have spoken up for the voiceless, not just as a student movement but a movement with family, friends, loved ones and comrades all believing in the awesome oppurtunities and vital part colleges play in creating futures fr people with none.
I invited everyone to come sign this petition. Many of my friends have benefited from education directly. And I can almost gurantee almost everyone else is affected in some other way positiviely. So I ask you to sign up to the http://www.fundscotlandsfuture.org
 Website (stick in your instituation or other if you have left uni (or if you want to align yourself with the institution you did study at thats ok too!!)

MSP’s have until monday to vote against the cut and after that your signatures will flood their emails and be a key part of our campaign to ensure colleges are funded and protected to continue the work they do. Thank you for sticking with me.

In solidarity

Conor Muray-Gauld

National Care Leavers Week & FINAL UPDATE.

•October 23, 2012 • Leave a Comment

*****************************UPDATE******************************

Below are replies from MSP’s who have said they will sign up to support the motion. AMAZING NEWS!

 

Got this one final update from Sarah Boyack

2012-10-31 (3)

Malcolm.Chisholm.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
4:47 PM (10 hours ago)

to me

Thanks I certainly support the NUS campaign and have now signed Alison Johnston’s motion.
Best wishes
Malcolm Chisholm

Neil.Findlay.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
7:57 AM (19 hours ago)

to me

Very happy to support this motion – we need real action to improve access and national effort to improve the life chances of people who leave care.

Neil Findlay MSP for the Lothians

and a “its been passed on for consideration from  Sarah Boyack

Dear Conor

Thank you for your email to Sarah Boyack MSP regarding supporting young carers.

I am writing to confirm that I have forwarded your correspondence to Sarah for her consideration.

Kind Regards

Fiona

Will keep you updated on any more MSPS who get in touch. (feel free to send these guys a well done and thanks for supporting email!

Hello Guys, apologies for no updates life is sort of crazy all the time, I have had quite a few blogs bubbling away under the surface of late but just have not been able to put pen to paper (or is it fingers to keyboard?) .

I have a few blogs int he pipeline lined up but today I was at the Scottish Executive Committee (which is the meetings i attend in my National Union of Students capacity as an elected officer). The meeting was very long and lots where discussed but one of our officers brought up an amazing piece of information about national care leavers week. The article can be found here

http://www.nusconnect.org.uk/news/article/priorityscotland/NUS-Scotland-and-Buttle-UK-join-forces-to-call-for-greater-action-on-access-to-higher-education/

this explains the whole story better but essentially We need to be doing more to support the most vulnerable in society (or so I think so anyway).

It was really exciting because the mood today had been really down at points and tensions had been running high over some technical and communication issues, This piece really elevated the mood to hear some amazing stories about how some universities where going above and beyond to provide for this group in really “WOW that’s the dream way”. What was scary is how little thought is given to this overlooked part of society. I sort of came away buzzing a little bit because It ties in so nicely with NUS’s campaign on “Unlocking Scotland’s potential (More on that on another blog update next week). I openly admit Carers was never an area I had looked at, I think it’s an area we as officers, as people hugely over look and now I have seen the potential to support it I should do my wee part to help it.

Theres a motion going through parliament this week, It essentially calls for the government to step up and do more for young people in care in terms of education and supporting them through that transistion and time at academic institutions.

What can you do? REALLY SIMPLE. anyone, student, sabb, parent, or just concerned citizen can fire an email to their local MSP and Regional MSP. By typing in their postcode here: http://www.writetothem.com/ and asking them to support the motion going through parliament (and while they are at it sign up to supporting Unlocking Scotland’s potential too because that’s similar kinds of awesome). I have put my own email below,  which I drafted very quickly an concisely (as best as I can be at being concise anyway!) With slight tweaking it could be used by anyone so if this is something you take an interest in or believe the government should be doing the same then Feel free to edit my email and fire it off.

Dear MSP

This week National Care Leavers Week and NUS is teaming up with Buttle to get the government to do more about young people in care.

 

Part of our widening access campaign for fair and equal access to university, which the government is planning on legislating on. Is not just about getting the poorest students into further and higher education, but providing mechanisms and support for students from a multitude of backgrounds. One of the groups that seems to slip through the cracks in terms of support is young people in care. The type of support provided for them is inconsistent from institution to institution. Also local authority figures on where these people, who are arguably some of the most vulnerable in society go after care, such as academic progression is just simply unknown.

There are many more arguments to be made about supporting young carers and some of them can be found here.

http://www.nusconnect.org.uk/news/article/priorityscotland/NUS-Scotland-and-Buttle-UK-join-forces-to-call-for-greater-action-on-access-to-higher-education/

The reason I  am writing to you is to urge you to sign up to support the motion found here going through parliament.

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx?SearchType=Advance&ReferenceNumbers=S4M-04517&ResultsPerPage=10

I would also like further commitment from yourself on supporting the NUS campaign for “Unlocking Scotland’s potential”. This campaign links up with the governments plans to legislate universities to do more for Scotland’s best and brightest students who deserve just as much chance at university no matter what their background.

If you have anymore questions on the issue I would be happy to answer them, meet in person or chat over the phone.

As a student, NUS officer and firm believer in fair and equal access to Education motions like these are at the heart of what government should be doing, protecting the most vulnerable people in our society.

Yours sincerely,

Conor Murray-Gauld

NUS Scotland Education Campaign convener

Now if you are a sabb at a university I amn’t going to ask you to smash down your principles doors and demand better packages for carers, many of you might find your University doesn’t even keep that data. What you can do is start the conversation, they WILL be starting to form next years access agreements for funding with the Scottish Funding Council and  they should be engaging with students union, and in that mix of trying to get them on board with improving access and support for a range of students across the spectrum, just keep it in mind there are other groups that just because they don’t come to mind straight away as a neglected group in society doesn’t mean the issue doesn’t affect them just as much.

Today was a total eye opener for me, And it’s a little soppy but it “warmed the cockles of my heart” as they say. I have done exactly what I have recommended above, I have raised it with my other local union officers that tis is another group we need to consider, and keep in mind, and we will see where it goes. hanging the world one step at a time.

One final piece is just a shout out to Jamie Kinlochan who is doing some fantastic work on this and if he hadn’t brought this to my attention I wouldn’t be writing this now. I also want to shout out to all of SEC and Heriot-Watt Exec, the part-time and full-time officers, these guys are just fantastic, such a talented bunch of officers I have the absolute pleasure of working with, even when meetings get tough and tempers flare stories like today, and the big wins we can make when we pull together make it all worth while an I don’t think I tell you guys that enough, and I certainly don’t shout it out loud to the rest of the world!!

P.S the last few weeks have been crazy but I am back on the horse and going to try to keep you guys updated a bit more regularly. Exciting hings coming down the pipeline. I would love if you could repost or get involved in this anyway possible, a tweet, Facebook post, like, or comment all make a difference!

Love

Conor Murray-Gauld