15-24 Learner Journey Review

Report of the Scottish Government's review of education provision for 15-24 year olds.

What did we find out and what can we improve?

What did young people tell us?

38. Research undertaken by consultants SQW [14] , working with Young Scot, into young peoples' experiences of the education and skills system, told us:

  • The highest value learner journey is one that is specific to meet the needs for each individual young person.
  • Many young people make choices about their learning based on short-term, annual options rather than considering longer pathway planning toward particular careers and advanced level knowledge and skills.
  • At a national level we have a job to do in explaining how each component part of our educational structure is part of a single system, geared at presenting a coherent vision for post-15 education in Scotland.
  • Some young people felt the focus on attainment and qualifications within schools was not giving them the skills required to succeed in life, learning and work. As a result, some felt ill-prepared for life after school and this had a negative impact on their learner journeys. This was found to be particularly true of young people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, who may have limited support to develop life skills at home.
  • When young peoples' learner journeys falter, this is often the result of personal, social and health issues. Some young people reported that schools are not always well equipped to deal with these issues. In some cases, the support required is just a degree of flexibility to be able to identify and respond to individual needs, and in others it is a referral to external support. Access to the right support at the right time was identified as being key to minimising the potential negative impact that these issues can have on young peoples' learner journeys.
  • Young people felt there was a lack of parity of esteem between vocational and academic career pathways. A number of young people felt schools viewed university as the top destination for leavers, with college being the preferred second choice. This ties in with the focus on attainment and qualifications, with a perception that the 'ideal' pathway is to achieve good grades and then go to university. There is an assumption that leavers in the top cohort in terms of grades and attainment will go to university and alternative options, including vocational and technical routes, were reported to be very rarely promoted or discussed with this group.
  • In terms of subject choices, many young people reported a tension between choosing subjects that they enjoyed or were good at versus those that were perceived to offer better career opportunities. They also requested more guidance and support to be made available to inform subject choices, including information on the implications of these on future opportunities.
  • First destinations on leaving school were found to be mainly determined by academic attainment, with minimal consideration of individual aspirations, preferred learning styles, personal attributes (such as ability to cope with independent living) or final destinations. The study found that most young people who go to university tend to delay consideration of what to do next until the latter stages of their degree. For those who go to college, apprenticeships or employment, decisions about the next steps are often less well planned.
  • Many young people from all backgrounds report negative early experiences of the world of work. Lack of relevant and beneficial work experience was cited as a key barrier to young people getting certain jobs.

What did our partners tell us?

39. Building on our engagement with young people, the five projects of the review led detailed engagement with practitioners, stakeholders and partners over a period of several months, involving representatives from schools, independent training providers, colleges, universities, youth-work, professional associations, parents and national agencies.

40. A summary report for each project is available online at /policies/young-people-training-employment/15-24-learner-journey-review/

41. A full list of those engaged is available at Annex C.

What can we improve ?

42. In listening to young people, it is clear that we need to ensure they are better informed of the options available to them and how these can shape their career aspirations. This will require addressing the issue that work-related, vocational options are still not being valued or promoted as fully as they should. This results in young people continuing to be encouraged to take qualifications or courses that are not in their best interests, socially or economically.

43. We have a range of high quality information and resources, and support and guidance facilities available to assist and support young people, with their parents and carers, to make informed choices about their employment and learning options. However, these services tend to be managed within individual institutions and organisations and there is no standard requirement for organisations to signpost and promote the full range of options and opportunities available to young people to achieve their individual potential.

44. There is a strong CIAG (Careers Information Advice & Guidance) offer in place in schools, strengthened further by the Career Education Standard 3-18 and SDS/ School Partnership Agreements. However, evidence from the reviews of the Career Education Standard and CIAG shows that there is still more to be done for schools to take more responsibility for this and for greater links to be made between learning in the classroom and its relevance to the world of work.

45. Feedback from engagement work also suggests the need for CIAG to be backed up with more on-going personalised support for young people, throughout key points of their journey, which looks at their wider health and wellbeing, as well as career aspirations and academic ability. This would suggest that there is room for improvement in delivering on the CfE (Curriculum for Excellence) entitlement to personal support.

46. In responding to this expectation for greater personal support, we need to recognise and better address the impact that adverse childhood experiences ( ACEs) have on a young person's development, learning and behaviour. Schools, colleges, training providers and communities all play a crucial role in reducing the severity of ACEs, supporting children to overcome these experiences in the home and in the community. No one sector or organisation can do this on their own; addressing childhood adversity is a cross-cutting agenda that includes aligning the contribution of education with health, justice, social work, youth work and others.

47. As well as the need for greater personal support, there are also questions about the coherence of the learner journey for young people. This is particularly the case for statutory winter leavers who choose to leave school at the earliest opportunity and as a result of this, who tend to have more transitions in their learner journey than any other group of young people. It is also clear that there is still a 'middle group' of young people for whom the learner journey is not sufficiently smooth or purposeful. Similarly, there is evidence that S6 could be designed more effectively to encourage more meaningful and faster progression to further and advanced level learning; and that articulation routes from college into university could be improved.

48. Reflecting on this information, it is clear that if we want an improved, more coherent learner journey post-15, then we need to focus on addressing learner advice & support and system coherence, and prioritise:

Key priorities for improvement: This is in order to deliver: We will achieve improvement by:
1. Information, Advice & Support Greater Personalisation Making it easier for young people to understand their learning and career choices at the earliest stage and providing long-term person-centred support for the young people who need this most
2. Provision Real Choice Broadening our approach to education to reframe our offer , doing more for those who get the least out of the system and ensuring all young people access the high level work-based skills Scotland's economy needs
3. Alignment System Purpose Making the best use of our four year degree to give greater flexibility for move learners to move from S5 to year one of a degree, more from S6 to year 2, and more from college into years 2 and 3 of a degree where appropriate
4. Leadership System Vision Building collective leadership across the education and skills system
5. Performance System Success Knowing how well our education and skills system is performing

49. In taking forward these priorities, we should remind ourselves that the outcomes of this review will need to be developed and implemented across schools, colleges and universities over time. This will require further engagement, detailed planning and design, and likely significant and on-going work in relation to:

  • Qualification design / joined up approaches to learning experiences
  • Joint curriculum design and planning
  • Transition planning for learners
  • Resource sharing and logistical planning
  • Shared measurements and integrated quality standards

50. The review, therefore, acknowledges that to do this well, implementation will take time and that recommendations for the short, medium and long term are necessary.


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