AS EAST Lothian schools break up, I wish children and those who care for them a refreshing and enjoyable summer break.

It’s also my privilege to thank wholeheartedly school leaders, teachers and other education staff – including our county’s librarians – who carry the responsibility of ensuring our children reach their potential.

School staff have had a particularly difficult last couple of years, but I know that people of all ages reading this column will be able to look back and remember one or more teachers who helped to influence and shape them in ways that have determined their whole lives.

The contribution to Scotland made by its committed, skilled and compassionate teaching staff can never be overstated, and I hope teachers themselves will feel valued and encouraged by the words of Nelson Mandela: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul then the way in which it treats its children”.

Mandela was not sentimental but pragmatic in describing children as a nation’s “greatest asset... the creators of our national wealth who care for and protect our people”.

As leavers prepare to go out into the world, teachers can take pride in the fact that Scottish Government statistics on attainment and initial leaver destinations show that the 2022 leavers were a record-breaking cohort, with 95.7 per cent progressing to further study or setting out on a career path.

Positive destinations include higher and further education, employment, training, personal skills development and voluntary work.

The proportion of school leavers unemployed was also at a record low. The UK Government measures, and reports, its statistics differently, but these seem to show a comparative decline in positive outcomes south of the Border. If this points to difficulties that pre-date the pandemic, then a long decade of Tory and Lib Dem austerity may account for the blighting of children’s life chances.

Scotland, on the other hand, reports that the gap between school leavers from most to least deprived areas achieving positive destinations has narrowed to 4.4 per cent, a gap that has reduced by two-thirds since 2009-10.

No teacher, and no parent or carer, would expect me to be complacent but I commend the efforts of those giving our young people opportunities and hope.