Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills
What is the purpose of education?
That is the question we have considered at the heart of our efforts to achieve a fully aligned and coherent education and skills system.
In answering that question, I am clear that we want our young people to be equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to reach their full potential in both their careers and their wider lives. We build our approach to this on three policy pillars of Getting it Right for Every Child, Curriculum for Excellence, and Developing the Young Workforce.
Scotland is rightly proud of its education and skills system. However, we need all of our young people to get as much as possible from that system. This review has highlighted work that partners across the system need to take forward together to make sure that happens. Importantly, as well as education partners, this also means continued, active involvement from employers, who have a key role to play in developing our workforce for the future and ensuring that our education system develops in tandem with our economy.
We have a widening range of opportunities available to our young people, from well-established and well understood academic routes to exciting industry-led technical and professional routes. We need to move away from an inappropriate view that there is a single route to success in life with everything else being a poor consolation. Such a restricted approach does not work in the modern world, if it ever did.
Scotland cannot afford to be one dimensional in its approach to education and we cannot afford to waste the talents of our young people. This is an issue which is central to our inclusive economic growth and social justice ambitions. As a result of the reforms we are taking forward, we have the opportunity to ensure that all of our young people can follow pathways that are tailored to their strengths and interests.
Through Curriculum for Excellence and Developing the Young Workforce we are putting in place a stronger basis for a more balanced offer than we have seen in the past. We see the future being about embedding this balanced offer in all our schools. Our computer programmers, environmental engineers and genetic technicians as well as our future doctors, teachers, electricians, builders and artists will only emerge through such an approach.
To achieve this more balanced approach we are committed to undertaking a number of priority improvements to our education and skills system.
Firstly, we need better advice. We need to do more to ensure that there is a clear connection between the advice and guidance young people receive on subject choices and on longer term career options. They are often making annual decisions about subject choices. We need to ensure that this is informed by a meaningful understanding of career opportunities.
Since 2011, Skills Development Scotland has significantly enhanced the advice young people receive about career information and better focus this on those who need it most. At the same time, the Developing Young Workforce programme has raised expectations for schools to provide increased advice about the world of work.
Building on this progress, this review makes recommendations about the way in which career choices are presented, experienced, and developed through the senior phase and beyond. Central to this is continuing to enhance support which focuses on the individual young person; their interests and aspirations; and their wider health and well-being across transition points.
This will require us to build on the innovative work being done across Scotland to improve outcomes for all of Scotland's children. We will need to ensure that we make the links with colleagues working in Community Learning & Development ( CLD); Children and Young People Improvement Collaboratives ( CYPIC); those who are participating in Scottish Improvement Leaders ( ScIL) training; those working on the Scottish Attainment Challenge; and the newly formed Regional Improvement Collaboratives ( RICs).
In making these links, I want to emphasise the increasing interest across Scotland about what we can do to stop children from having stressful and traumatic experiences as they are growing up – what are often called adverse childhood experiences, or for short, ACEs. These can be different types of challenging experiences faced by young people and in responding to these I want us all to think about how we evolve the culture of the education and skills system toward greater nurturing and support, anchoring our approach in the rights of the child and young person.
Secondly, we need more work-based learning. Participants in this review told us that we need to build on the early success of the Developing the Young Workforce programme and continue to broaden our approach to education to ensure that all learners have access to a more balanced range of options which are valued equally.
Our post-15 education system has evolved at a considerable pace, adapting to different economic circumstances and this has resulted in the need for new and stronger types of collaboration. Many young people are leaving school with a wider range of qualifications, skills-based awards and achievements, and more are making successful initial transitions. A record 93.7 per cent of senior phase school leavers were in a positive destination three months after leaving school in 2016/17. This compares to 90.1 per cent in 2011/12. 
We want to build on this toward a fully co-created 15-24 education and skills system that is capable of preparing all our young people for a rapidly changing world of work; that provides a balance of work-based and academic skills informed by employer engagement; and is driven by a focus on the destinations of young people and the needs of the Scottish economy. To do this we will need strong system leadership to bring together the worlds of education and business and the complementary strengths of practitioners in different education sectors.
Thirdly, we need shorter journeys. Participants in this review told us that we need to improve the alignment of courses so that our learners are able to progress through the post-15 education system as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
We have an internationally renowned four year degree. One of its major strengths is its multiple-entry points. Despite this, this review has confirmed that we are not making the most of this. As a first step to improving the experience for the learner in navigating the system, we are committed to addressing this and this report sets a key expectation for more purposeful collaboration between schools, colleges and universities.
Taking all this work forward will require strong joint leadership and the right evidence base so that we act on evidence of outcomes and return on investment to ensure we continue to invest in the right qualifications and right types of learning.
This report sets out a list of priorities that we want to address now. It also presents a framework for continued joint working to build a consensus and commitment to meeting the future needs of the learner.
I would like to extend my thanks to everyone who invested their expertise and time in contributing to this report. In so doing, I am particularly grateful to Young Scot for its excellent work in engaging with young people.
Mindful of those young people, and many others currently in our education and skills system, it falls on us all to commit to taking forward these recommendations. We all have a role to play in this, and in Scotland's Year of Young People we look forward to working with all partners in the world of education in doing that.
Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education & Skills
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