15-24 Learner Journey Review

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

How will we do this?

Information, Advice and Support

Recommendations 1-4

Recommendations 1 &2: Better planning of journeys

"It's all very well having help to fill out your university application, but you need help deciding what to do." Emma, aged 21.

Young people told us:

  • There was good support available within schools to complete college and university application forms, but less adequate support available to help young people decide which programme to apply for.
  • For those going on to college, apprenticeships or employment, decisions about the next steps are often less well planned.
  • The first key decision point in a young person's learner journey is when they make subject choices in secondary school. These were reported to be based mainly on things they enjoyed or were good at, rather than on a career plan or an understanding of labour market opportunities.
  • Parents and carers are key influencers on young people's career choices and learner journeys, both directly and indirectly, and additional support is needed where there is less support at home.

51. The quality of career information, advice and guidance services delivered by Skills Development Scotland in schools and local authorities continues to be externally reviewed by Education Scotland through the 'External review of CIAG services' framework. This approach has consistently reported that there is a high quality and collaborative approach in place to improve outcomes for young people in Scotland. Moreover, that this service supports the development of lifelong career management skills, to enable young people to make better informed decisions about their current and future learning, skills and career choices.

52. In thinking about how we maximise access to this service and information more generally, it was clear from our engagement that many parents, carers, practitioners and young people continue to have limited awareness of the full range of options available. This was also the conclusion of a recent report produced for Skills Development Scotland & Scottish Government, Parents and Carers Research, produced by Progressive Partnership and published in May 2018.

53. The report highlights that parental/carer understanding of the range of post-school options is fairly limited and even those parents generally aware of the options available often had very little understanding of the detail of these. Copies of this report are available at /publications/parents-and-carers-research-final-report-january-2018/

54. Replicating these findings, our engagement identified that despite information being available through a number of different sources, parents, carers and young people can find it difficult to access information on the options and support available in their areas. As such, young people are not always being provided with information about the full range of options available to them.

55. As our starting point, we considered if we could bring together the current Career Information Advice Guidance ( CIAG) system on My World of Work – managed by Skills Development Scotland - with information on student support and the application system for UCAS, Apprenticeships online and potentially a new college application process.

56. The review revealed that, as well as understanding the choices available, more could be done to help learners understand the different application and assessment processes associated with these. It was noted that My World of Work has the potential to sit at the heart of how young people access and organise information about themselves and about their future education and skills choices. It was noted that further development was needed to link this better to other information to build understanding amongst learners, parents and practitioners and to give an equal footing to both vocational and academic pathways – noting that currently, learners go to different places to access different routes, creating multiple systems, often requiring learners to duplicate information about themselves.

57. The review made clear that to better align services, information needs to be joined up and one central approach would help this. However, thought needs to be given to how individual learners and end users, such as employers, can get the best from such a central / digital service as their needs will be different.

58. It was also noted that universities and colleges need to be clearer to the learner about the reality of the clearing process and all the other factors which impact upon successful progression, in addition to qualifications, such as differential entry requirements.

59. Presenting information effectively to young people, ultimately, therefore, needs a fully joined-up approach rather than simply aligning services.

Recommendation 1

We will ensure every learner in Scotland has an online learner account to link their skills and attributes to better course choices. This work will start in 2018 and be accessible by the start of 2019

To do this we will develop My World of Work ( MWOW) to link with existing digital services to deliver an online learner account that enables learners to record their attributes, skills and qualifications in a way that helps them better plan their learner journey into work. The account will also be used to support application processes. Our approach will recognise wider achievements and informal learning, so that all young people have the opportunity to develop a personal statement and clearly articulate the skills gained and achievements made whilst in school.

The online learner account for each individual learner would be based on the existing Scottish Candidate Number*. When considering the use of a unique learner number, it was felt that further development of the existing SCN offered the most potential as a means of taking this forward. At an aggregate level this will help develop consistent performance measures as well as support the tracking of cohorts through the system for the purpose of evaluation.

The online learner account could become the basis of a wider learner portal that links the learner to different application processes and connects to the developments, set out below in this report, in relation to how learners make an application to college.

In the Year of the Young Person debate in December 2017, young people expressed a desire to see the full range of their skills and achievements recognised. In order to address this, work is already underway by Education Scotland, working with the Awards Network, Skills Development Scotland and young people to explore how to best capture all young people's achievements, using MWOW as a starting point. This will form a key part of the work to take forward this recommendation.

*The Scottish Candidate Number ( SCN), administered by the Scottish Qualifications Authority ( SQA), is in place for candidates undertaking SQA qualifications and has been used as the unique pupil identifier in all publicly-funded schools in Scotland since 2006 and covers all children from entry to P1. For post-school learning and training, the SCN is recorded for a large proportion of university full-time undergraduates, college students and those undertaking training. However, it is not used in a systematic way across the sectors where further learning can be linked to school education, or work-based learning.

Recommendation 2

We will support practitioners, parents, carers and learners to have access to an online prospectus setting out the learning choices available in their region, building towards a 'one-stop shop' approach. This work will start in 2018.

To do this, we will work with local authorities, colleges, Regional Improvement Collaboratives and SDS to establish the most effective way of articulating their local offer, supporting the development of an online regional prospectus for the senior phase which gives an overview of the courses available to young people in schools and colleges in their area.

Whilst this will not capture all the learning opportunities everywhere, this would support greater consideration, clarity and expression of value of the range of choices available to young people in the senior phase.

There are already existing examples in areas including Glasgow and East Dunbartonshire.

Taking this forward

60. These recommendations would be led by Scottish Government working with Skills Development Scotland, COSLA, Local Authorities, Scottish Qualification Authority, Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership and Education Scotland.

61. SDS have made considerable progress in developing better online services for young people and are committed to developing these further. Digital improvements to information advice and guidance carry the risk of unknown IT system and maintenance costs. This is why we propose to build on what we already have and work with SDS to continue to introduce incremental improvement. The first challenge we want to overcome is to enable learner information that is created at school to have a life beyond school and act as a digital account through a learner's lifetime.

62. Providing an account and enabling learners to be able to easily access their learning information, requires data identifiers. We see the Scottish Candidate Number as being the means to do this.

Long-Term Vision

To further develop the idea of a 'one-stop shop' to better signpost all opportunities available in terms of types of programmes, qualifications, progression routes and support to learners in Scotland.

63. There was a clear desire from stakeholders for a 'one-stop shop' for parents, carers, practitioners, and learners to clearly signpost the full range of formal and informal learning opportunities available to young people across Scotland. Amongst other things, it was argued this should provide easy access to college and university entry requirements to enable learners, parents, carers and practitioners to compare the requirements of different institutions for the same course.

64. We will work with SDS and other national bodies, including SQA and SCQF to build on My World of Work, developing this over time so that it continues to improve signposting of information available on other national websites, and promoting this more widely to practitioners, parents and learners.

Recommendation 3: A joined-up careers experience

"It would have been good to know about college courses and entry requirements before making my subject choices." Donna, aged 19.

65. As part of the review we considered the implications for the provision of CIAG (career information, advice and guidance) through the education and skills system. We were mindful of the establishment of the entitlements for career guidance developed as part of the Developing the Young Workforce Programme ( DYW).

66. It was noted that there is a strong CIAG offer in place in schools, strengthened further by the introduction of the Career Education Standard 3-18. However, evidence from the reviews of the Career Education Standard and CIAG undertaken by Education Scotland in 2017, 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.

67. The review considered the continuity of learner entitlements through the education and skills system. Critical, again, and reflecting their lynchpin role, were colleges. Discussions with college staff highlighted the variability in CIAG provision in colleges and the need for a consistent and coherent experience for all learners.

68. The discussions also revealed recurring themes of the limitations of the current CIAG approach. Whilst some of these are inevitable consequences of prioritisation and the resource constraints on the service – hence the drive for greater careers engagement within the classroom – there was still a clear expectation that more could be done.

69. As part of this review, Universities Scotland, AGCAS and QAA gave reassurances that career services in HE are working effectively and there was support to ensure these are complimentary to what has been provided before to provide a coherent careers experience through the education and skills system.

70. Stakeholders raised the issue of how we could better align University Careers services to the widening access effort to best assist young people in understanding applications and admissions to particular higher education institutions and so better informing their subject choice decisions.

71. Workshops and discussions identified a commitment from partners for greater consistency for the learner to ensure all parts of the system are committed to providing an aligned service that best meets the needs of learners.

Recommendation 3

We will ensure learners in schools, colleges and universities receive a joined-up approach to careers, information, advice and guidance. This work will start in 2018.

To do this we will work in partnership with Colleges Scotland and the college sector to develop a coherent approach to CIAG service delivery to college learners. This will include equity of access and the support of career practitioners in the college sector and the business community.

We will work with QAA (Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education) and universities to ensure their quality processes align with Scottish Government aspirations for learner access to CIAG support.

Taking this forward

72. This recommendation would be led by the Scottish Government working with the Scottish Funding Council, Colleges Scotland, Universities Scotland, QAA and Skills Development Scotland.

73. Following publication of this report we would define the scope of improvement with Colleges Scotland & Universities Scotland. The outcome of this work will determine subsequent steps and pace of implementation.

74. Little is required to change in the university sector, where the careers service and its profession is mostly visible and standards are well maintained, including by a professional body. In colleges, we expect there to be further development, and will actively discuss the best way forward with Colleges Scotland.

Long Term Vision

To publish a careers strategy in 2019, which will align with the already published Career Education Standard, and focus on the all age careers service incorporating earlier career advice in schools; CIAG services in FE and HE; as well as support encompassing the wider employability landscape

75. In order for learners to navigate the range of journeys open to them, and understand the implications of their educational choices, they need access to high quality, independent careers education, information, advice and guidance. Building on what is being delivered via DYW, we need to continue to assess:

  • How do we best provide a service to our young people that empowers them to use information more effectively?
  • How does this innovate to tackle particular issues, such as gendered subject choices?
  • How do we better align subject choice information with advice about post-school options, careers advice and labour market information ( LMI)?

76. Our longer-term ambition is to ensure there is a fully aligned set of learner entitlements to access career advice and guidance from school, in college, university, and the wider skills system.

Recommendation 4: Improving Wider Support

Young people told us:

  • That poor attendance and low attainment were often the result of personal and social issues, such as mental and physical health problems, family breakdown, bereavement and caring responsibilities.
  • That their learner journeys are often influenced by Adverse Childhood Experiences ( ACE's) including personal and social issues, such as their own and family member's health problems, economic drivers (a need to earn money) and the skills and confidence gained through sports and other hobbies.
  • That they wanted better links to additional support – there was a reported lack of support within educational institutions to deal with some of the personal, social and health issues that young people might be facing. It was acknowledged that these institutions might not always be best placed to provide this support, but that teaching and support staff should be able to identify when young people are experiencing problems and signpost them to the appropriate support. Getting the right support at the right time was identified as key to enabling young people who are facing these types of issues to continue to progress in their learner journey.

The Poverty Commissioner recommended that we:

  • Reinforce and develop new advice provision for young people, supported by a skilled, trained workforce.
  • Take action to understand Adverse Childhood Experiences ( ACEs) and embed positive approaches to addressing trauma and supporting resilience, such as mental health provision, based on quality evidence, in key settings where young people engage.

77. Our engagement with stakeholders highlighted the key themes of resilience, including self-confidence, self-esteem, social support, purpose, and adaptability all of which sit around the learner journey and are fundamental elements that need to be in place to allow for full participation in learning.

78. At the outset it was noted that more could be done to better sign post existing services which could also be better utilised or adapted to better meet learners' support needs. This included: the 'Thinking school' guidance service; in-school counsellors; ChildLine; Breathing Space; and online resources like Mind and MindTools that equip young people with coping skills and help to address stigma and isolation. Making better use of these and refocusing their availability was seen as one of the first steps in providing better learner support.

79. The review also made clear the need for more to be done, beyond signposting of information and services, for particular cohorts of learners including, for example, those who have experience of being in care and those young people from gypsy-traveller communities.

80. Throughout the review we heard recurring messages about the importance of relationships, the role of a trusted adult, the need for continuity across transitions and the impact of a young person's wider emotional and social wellbeing on the success of their learner journey. There were also clear messages about the need for a more joined-up approach between careers and pastoral staff, to ensure young people are making the choices that are right for them.

81. Curriculum for Excellence ( CfE) set out an entitlement to personal support for all young people. This included personal support to enable young people to:

  • review their learning and plan for next steps;
  • gain access to learning activities which will meet their needs;
  • plan for opportunities for personal achievement; and
  • prepare for and be supported through changes and choices.

82. The CfE entitlement also states that "All children and young people should have frequent and regular opportunities to discuss their learning with an adult who knows them well and can act as a mentor, helping them to set appropriate goals for the next stages in learning".

83. Feedback from our engagement 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 their career aspirations and academic ability. This would suggest that there is room for improvement in delivering on the CfE entitlement to personal support.

84. There were also clear messages from young people and stakeholders that more planning needs to be done to ensure that young people have a range of options and in this way the most appropriate route can be found, with a clear source/ point of support to help them back into the system.

85. Alongside the work on developing a coherent approach to CIAG and profiling, and building on the review of Personal Social Education ( PSE), we want to look at the consistency of personal, individualised support to ensure that young people are being supported systematically across transition points to make choices and move through their learner journey. This should explore how we improve access to the wide range of in and out of school supports that are available and accessible through a range of channels and media, some 24 hours a day 365 days a year, to ensure young people, especially those young people from gypsy traveller communities, have consistent access to supports that meet their varied needs at different times.

86. This is about improving young peoples' life chances by helping them to build a consistent, trusting relationship with a positive adult role-model. Appropriately trained and supported mentors will be key to ensuring that such approaches are impactful and sustainable.

87. In taking this forward we will build on existing approaches across Scotland in relation to mentoring, for example MCR Pathways, which has been shown to be making an impact on the attainment, attendance and positive destinations of the young people involved.

Recommendation 4

We will take account of the outcomes of the PSE Review, due to be published later this year, and consider what further improvement is needed on wider personal support for young people in schools.

As part of this, we will address how, at a national level, we can promote a greater emphasis on mentoring, focused on wider health and wellbeing support at key transitions. This could draw upon emerging practice across Scotland, for example in Polmont YOI; in work being developed through the Scottish Attainment Challenge; practice in the youth-work sector; and through programmes such as MCR Pathways, intandem and Career Ready.

88. With regard to colleges and universities, we are already seeking stronger partnerships with student associations, other pastoral care providers and NHS Scotland, to ensure a range of support services are in place that are sensitive to the varying needs of all students, that identify mental health difficulties early and provide appropriate support to meet these. This includes expectations for developing an effective, strategic and collaborative approach to preventing gender based violence on campuses [15] . Institutions are expected to put in place reporting systems and data capture arrangements that best meet the needs and diversity of survivors, whilst also supporting their continuing engagement at university or college.

Recommendation 5: Easier application to college

89. In thinking about the way in which the education and skills system is configured to provide and enable choice, the review considered the connectivity of information, advice and guidance with the ease of application to college. This was as part of a series of considerations over the role colleges play at the heart of the education and skills system.

90. In the first instance, stakeholders asked what more colleges could do to streamline applications through school to college for those young people currently undertaking, as part of DYW, college courses whilst at school. Stakeholders were clear that schools and colleges should ensure that learners are on planned pathways whilst at school so that they progress from DYW activity to college seamlessly and without the need for unnecessary applications and process. It was stated that this planned progression should be possible across colleges within the same region, so that pathways are planned together by colleges and subject choice decisions made in school align with the opportunities for progression in all colleges within a region.

91. In terms of the application process itself, the review considered the viability of a national college application system and the extent to which a national system would better support parity of opportunity between college and university – that is, encouraging the same level of support from schools to help students complete college applications as university applications since the two processes would be more similar, better aligned and undertaken in much the same way.

92. Discussions with colleges and stakeholders revealed concerns at the outset that such a system would need to be flexible, fair and simple and work for all students. It would need to maximise opportunities for alignment with existing digital services, especially, My World of Work. It was noted that digital access is still a significant barrier to some student groups and any changes to current arrangements would need to be equality impact assessed.

93. The discussions also reflected on the benefits with regard to data collection and it was noted that a national picture of applications and applicants would be beneficial to help more fully understand demand for courses and further enhance regional curriculum planning. Consistent national data also supported improved reporting.

94. In collecting this data, though, we were reminded of the need to be mindful of protocols in response to data sharing sensitivities for both colleges and individuals.

95. Greater information to applicants which set out when to apply; rules about the number of applications which can be submitted; and timings over changing courses/accessing student support funding, i.e. bursaries, all need to be considered. We also noted the importance of supporting late applications, especially for particular groups of learners.

96. Whilst a national college application system would remove duplication of effort for an applicant, it would need to be flexible, fair and simple to use and work for all students regardless of their circumstances or route into college. It was this issue of flexibility and responsiveness to the learner that was a key focus of the discussions, as it was felt that current processes/practices are already flexible enough for colleges to place students on a different course from the one they applied for if it is more appropriate for them.

97. Practitioners were also concerned that a move to a national process would impact on FE learners' ability to access the local support commonly offered by colleges in supporting students through course choice and application. Concerns mainly focused on the risk of losing the flexibility of local processes and systems which are responsive to student and institutional needs.

98. There was widespread support to simplify and enhance how learners search and find appropriate college courses, including for the collection of standardised national data on college applications.

99. Particular college regions are also already progressing digital approaches to co-ordinated application processes within a region, which we would want to support and build on.

100. At the culmination of the discussions, the balance of opinion was that a national college application system would not best meet the needs of the learner, and instead, that the focus should be on building on the work already being delivered by colleges within multi-college regions.

Recommendation 5

We will work with the college sector to improve the ease with which learners can apply to college. This work will start in 2018.

In particular, working in partnership with the college sector we will support:

  • SDS to maximise course search functionality on My World of Work to allow learners to see all college courses offered within a specific curriculum/vocational area or in a particular region and provide links to college sites to allow learners to apply directly to a college.
  • Multi-college regions in developing and piloting co-ordinated application processes.
  • The collection of a standardised dataset on college application forms to make it easier for learners completing multiple applications to colleges and to allow a clear picture of demand to be established across the college sector.
  • A more standardised timetable for college applications and the presentation to learners of offers of a place, taking into account UCAS deadlines for offers.

Taking this forward

101. This recommendation would be led by Scottish Government working with the College Sector, Skills Development Scotland and Scottish Funding Council ( SFC).

102. Further work is needed to assess the full extent of search information available through My World of Work and how this can be further enhanced to better meet the needs of the learner, whilst at the same time supporting the technical developments necessary to join up regional approaches. Recognising the value of building on existing infrastructure and investment, we will commission SDS to work with the college sector to undertake the development work necessary.

103. Greater standardisation of application timetables will be challenging given the different levels of courses and modes of study ( FT/ PT) and the fact that students can currently join courses in January. This means careful scoping work will be required, and we will work with SFC, SDS and Colleges Scotland on the potential for improvement.

104. We will in parallel pursue with the college sector and the SFC, the development of a consistent and national college dataset to help better understand demand for college provision and curriculum planning.

Long-term vision

Depending on the progress with this work and the experience of piloting we would continue to refine and enhance the learner application process, building greater functionality linked to the developments of the learner account established by recommendation 1.

How will we do this?


Recommendations 6-12


"It would have been good to get more information about different types of apprenticeships that are available when I was in school." Jodi, aged 18.

Young people told us:

  • That they often felt unprepared for life after school and that this can hold them back in their learner journey. For example, many who go to university have to cope with living independently (often in a new town or city) for the first time. If they are ill-prepared to do that, their learner journey will falter, regardless of how well they are doing academically.
  • There is a need for a greater focus on developing the life skills required for learners to make successful transitions, particularly within the senior phase of school.
  • Taking time out of formal education can provide an opportunity for young people to think about what they want to do; travel; explore different options; and develop their confidence. However, this is often not a realistic or practical option for those who are not being financially supported by their parents or who are in poverty.
  • Work experience can have a profound impact on career choices, but young people report limited opportunities to access good quality placements.

QUISE (Quality & Improvement in Scottish Education) [16] found that:

  • Across the college sector, more than 40per cent of learners on full-time programmes are aged 15-18 years. Success rates for this group are amongst the lowest. This age group also has the highest number of learners withdrawing from their programme prior to completion, and the highest number completing with partial success

105. It was clear from engagement that there are specific groups for whom the learner journey is not as smooth or as successful as it could be.

106. There are still questions about the coherence of the learner journey for young people most disengaged from education, particularly statutory winter leavers, who tend to have more transitions in their learner journey than any other group of young people, partly due to poorer 'future' planning. 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.

107. Similarly there is evidence that S6 could be designed more effectively to encourage purposeful and faster progression to further and advanced level learning where that is the best thing for an individual learner; and that articulation routes through college into university need to be better promoted and more accessible. It was also felt that there needed to be more flexibility in year one of university to give young people different learning options.

108. It was felt that universities needed to make further progress in providing differentiated offers to reflect the fact that learners are attaining in different ways and at different levels in S5 and S6.

109. Progress in increasing the range of learning options available to young people is well underway, principally through the delivery of the Developing the Young Workforce ( DYW) programme. DYW supports greater collaboration between schools, colleges and employers to deliver a greater mix of course choices within the senior phase, emphasising and filling gaps in the breadth of vocational career routes available to young people. These choices include the delivery of the new Foundation Apprenticeship which provides routes to both work and higher level study. Further information on this programme and the Foundation Apprenticeship can be found at: www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/what-we-do/apprenticeships/foundation-apprenticeships/

110. We want to build on the success of DYW, in particular the employer related elements, which are also progressing.

111. Through DYW, we have seen the establishment of the network of employer-led Regional Groups, the development of online resources to help bring together employers and education for the benefit of young people and alignment with new initiatives coming to Scotland such as Founders4Schools.

112. While good progress has been made in terms of creating employer-led infrastructure, there is still much to do to deliver the culture change across employers and education that we seek. DYW Regional Groups face an important challenge in ensuring the employer contribution to an enhanced learner journey is delivered.

113. The experience of the implementation of DYW makes clear that a partnership approach to delivering post 15 learning is key to meeting the different needs of young people. Schools cannot do this alone and it is vital that as well as employers, colleges and universities take a more active role in enhancing the offer in schools and in improving the interface, particularly at SCQF Level 7. This is considered in the following sections of this report.

Recommendations 6 – 10 : Improving the design, alignment and coherence of the 15-24 learning journey for all young people

"There should be more options for different types of learners. Some people are more practical and creative / visual. School is all about writing. Sitting in classrooms and listening to teachers." Ashleigh, aged 20.

114. In considering the design, alignment and coherence of the 15-24 learner journey we had significant feedback that the system is too focused on traditional progression routes to HE, and primarily university, and needs to better understand and better articulate the other pathways available.

115. It was also strongly felt that more needed to be done by national bodies working together, to promote and celebrate the range of different qualifications and pathways young people can undertake. This has been a key aim of DYW, yet there are still issues around parity. It was therefore felt that a pro-active communications strategy was needed.

116. It was highlighted that we need to ensure the best possible purposing of the senior phase, as a three-year programme of learning, that makes S6 more valuable for all young people.

117. This would require as wide a range of options as possible to be embedded in the senior phase curriculum, alongside a continued focus on personal resilience and life skills, to support transition to further points on their learner journey. Achieving this change requires much greater college and university cooperation in the design and delivery of the senior phase.

118. We also heard that, whilst there are considerable benefits from more young people staying on in school, we need to make sure the learning and skills system is capable of maximising routes into employment. Therefore, we need to achieve the right balance of supporting young people to access good careers as early as possible whilst supporting those to train for higher level qualifications where particular careers demand it. This supports the continued expansion of Foundation Apprenticeships, and other vocational qualifications at a range of SCQF levels, and the availability of the right balance and level of Modern Apprenticeships ( MAs). This should also include the promotion of Graduate Apprenticeships within schools, so that young people understand the full breadth of opportunities available to them.

119. It was noted that many of these issues are tackled through the full implementation of DYW and the expansion of a curriculum offer that is co-designed with employers and colleges. As the DYW programme enters its half-way point, developing these wider partnerships and structures is key to its sustainability and becoming fully embedded in the curriculum.

120. It was noted that the full implementation of DYW would enhance the value added to the learner journey through the senior phase, including S6, college, university, training or employment. In particular, that it would help to overcome issues of choice, parity of esteem, to maximise skills and to reflect the range of learning styles, abilities and aspirations of young people.

121. Promoting a wider range of pathways into Higher Education would also help support delivery of Recommendation 6 of the report of the Commission on Widening Access (" The Scottish Government, working with key stakeholders, should ensure the key transitions phases around SCQF levels 6 to 8 are better used to provide students from disadvantaged backgrounds with the qualifications and experiences required to support fair access.").

Statutory Leavers

122. In the discussions on the curriculum, the review considered what more we could do to improve the outcomes for statutory leavers.

123. The review provided an opportunity to consider the options available to school pupils who have formally completed 4 years of secondary education but, due to their dates of birth, are not considered statutory school leavers until December of that year.

124. Whilst DYW is in place to enhance and deliver a richer, blended vocational learning experience in schools, it was felt more is needed for this particular cohort to maximise the value they receive from the learning and skills system between S3-S5.

125. This reflected the evidence from Skills Development Scotland that those who leave on the statutory date tend to have worse outcomes than post statutory leavers and that individuals who enter low skilled employment after school are unlikely to progress to higher skilled work [17] .

126. Despite commitments already made within the DYW programme to extend activity agreements to under-14's, progress was considered to be slow and variable.

127. Whilst the creation of an annual single statutory school leaving date would provide this group with access to a wider range of opportunities, stakeholders were divided on this. Some wished the statutory leaving age to rise to ensure more is done and provided in school for young people. Others that it should reduce so that those returning until winter in S5 could leave at the end of S4 and get on in work. To some extent this might suggest that there is no right age for when a young person leaves school and rather we should expect schools to maximise the availability of purposed, planned and meaningful curricula for all young people, leading to successful destinations for all, which will require meaningful partnerships between schools, the third sector, employers and colleges and universities.

128. It was noted that many of these learners disengage from learning from at least the end of S4 and, the challenge, therefore, is ensuring that provision is as rich for them as it is for others.

129. In general terms, it was acknowledged in discussions that this cohort predominantly come from disadvantaged backgrounds and are less likely to sustain a post school opportunity. The review heard that the creation of a wider winter leavers offer could help ensure far more to continue and participate in a learning opportunity and make significant inroads into reducing levels of inequality and poverty experienced by this group.

130. The review highlighted the importance of young people staying in mainstream education and that, supporting the principles of GIRFEC, the Attainment Challenge and DYW, it makes sense to formalise and promote a wider and standardised offer for these young people.

Looked After Young People

131. The review also considered those young people who are looked after whilst at school. This group can experience a number of disruptions earlier on in their learner journey which has a negative impact on their final school leaving academic achievements.

132. Levels of attainment are measured annually [18] and this evidence suggests trends for looked after children are improving but that there are still children who require extra assistance. In 2015/16, for example, a higher proportion of children who were looked after for part of the school year, and who lived with foster carers provided by the local authority or with friends/relatives, achieved at the CfE level relevant to their stage, compared with children who were looked after for part of the school year and who were looked after at home, or living in residential accommodation.

133. The review revealed the need to increase our aspiration for this group of learners and join up our effort with existing corporate parenting responsibilities. For both statutory leavers and looked after children it makes sense to maximise the combined impact of all parts of the system whilst a young person is still in school and earlier in their school journey, rather than work independently and incrementally with learners on disjointed journeys at later stages.

134. If this were to happen it would enrich the school offer for this cohort of learners, and help overcome a young person's skills deficit prior to leaving, thereby ensuring that those who do leave are best prepared. Importantly, at the same time, it maximises the incentive not to leave, thereby genuinely empowering learner choice.

135. A more substantial blended curriculum needs to be done well and without placing additional burdens on any of the partners involved. Youth-work organisations, Prince's Trust and the Duke of Edinburgh scheme have a history of delivering activity within schools, but the review discussions expressed the need to strengthen this collaboration with a more significant shift toward the co-creation of a blended curriculum (involving qualifications, skills and experience, including of work) for the target cohorts. It was also felt that this should be a central feature of the school inspection process, asking questions of the extent of engagement with specialist regional partners in the creation of this blended curriculum.

136. Critically, it was noted that a number of schools have made real progress in developing their offer. However, we need to address how we support all schools and other professionals to work more closely and at an earlier stage, so that the curriculum offer is planned as part of a wider child support plan and in a more consistent way across Scotland.

137. This will require improved collaborative planning between schools and those involved supporting the child or young person, including the family. We think there is a sophisticated network of partners already involved in this work. The task will be harnessing this and building on the existing corporate parent responsibilities of agencies, in driving the ambition for change.

138. As a starting point to taking this work forward we need to build on both existing approaches emerging through the Pupil Equity Fund and on the work of the Children and Young People Improvement Collaboratives.

Recommendation 6

We will develop a national communication strategy to explain and promote the breadth of choices in the 15-24 learner journey. This will build on the promotional activity undertaken in Scotland's Year of Young People and be ready by the end of AY19-20.

Recommendation 7

We will raise our aspiration and improve the offer and support for statutory leavers and looked after young people. We will want improvements to be in place from AY19-20.
We will support schools to have in place an expanded offer from the start of S4 – involving early identification, a planned curriculum with the necessary support in place, devised in partnership with either the third sector, SDS, colleges or an employer - for all young people at risk of disengagement.

Recommendation 8

We will better align our financial incentives to encourage continued participation in school for young people at risk of disengagement and we will ask Young Scot to assist us with this. This work will start in 2018.
We will review how our entitlements align to maximise their impact irrespective of whether learning takes place in the third sector or college whilst a learner is still at school. We will consider this work as part of the recommendations made by the independent Student Support Review (2017).

Recommendation 9

We will embed DYW in the school curriculum by 2021, having achieved the headline target for DYW four years early.
We will work with the new Regional Improvement Collaboratives, schools, local authorities, colleges, DYW Regional Groups, third sector, CLD, businesses and employers and national bodies to embed the expectations set out in the DYW programme within curriculum, planning design and delivery.

Recommendation 10

We will support and enable the Foundation Apprenticeship and other vocational qualifications to be embedded, providing a range of options for all learners in the senior phase by 2021.
We will work to ensure these opportunities are an intrinsic part of the school offer in Scotland, and as a starting point we will continue with our commitment of 5,000 FAs by 2019. We will set out plans to further enhance Scotland's apprenticeship family, recognising the role foundation apprenticeships play in encouraging access to, and progression in, work based learning.

Taking this forward

139. These recommendations would be led by the Scottish Government working with the Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board, COSLA, schools, Local Authorities, Colleges Scotland, Universities Scotland, the Scottish Funding Council, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Qualifications Authority, Education Scotland, Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership and Community Learning & Development.

140. It is important that over the next three years, schools, local authorities, colleges, Education Scotland, SFC and SDS continue to work together to fully embed DYW.

141. This will include work to be undertaken to better understand and promote the full 15-24 learner journey offer across the country and the impact of different curriculum approaches on young people. This will assist in strengthening the senior phase offer for different groups of leaners and enhance the S6 experience for all. This work would be part of the remit of the new Curriculum and Assessment Board.

142. This work should also consider other service/operational improvements that might remove existing barriers, for example, meeting the transport costs of young people to enable ease of participation across the system, or supporting schools and colleges to undertaken joint timetabling.

143. To deliver the type of tailored pathway necessary, increasing engagement with Further Education, Higher Education, Community Learning and Development and other training providers, we think requires:

  • Improved joint planning between schools and colleges in order to deliver a more cohesive curriculum offer.
  • Maximum use of the college curriculum to increase choice.
  • A stronger focus on the completion of the DYW programme.
  • The most effective use of existing funding to ensure best value is made of all employability support.
  • All of this activity being better coordinated through SDS targeted support for identified young people.

"I joined the Activity Agreement, met new people and spoke about my problems and how to be better. This helped me to find out what I'm good at and got me into college." Ryan, aged 18.

144. Taking this forward, financial incentives will need to be further refined and developed and affordability determined. Thought will need to be given to how we best align entitlements to maximise their benefit on young people. This work sits alongside the recommendations made by the independent Student Support Review (2017), which called for greater parity in funding for further and higher education students.

145. The different eligibility rules of different services have the potential to confuse parents, carers and young people, especially where they are required to make a new application for support with each learning or training transition.

146. A key part of our implementation effort, therefore, will be the better alignment of these services, including undertaking work to fully understand the implications of different incentives on the outcomes of learners.

147. This work will include the joint development of the offer on employability support across the range of services for 15-24 year olds. As part of which, the Scottish Government will hold a discussion on the reform of employability services in Summer 2018.

148. By speaking directly with those who currently use our services, this discussion will seek to refine and better understand the inter-play of different financial incentives on learner choices and outcomes with a view to gathering evidence to drive improvements on alignment and delivery. In so doing, we will take into consideration the recommendations of the independent Student Support Review (2017) for greater fairness, clarity and parity across the further and higher education student support systems.

Recommendation 11: Improving the design, alignment and coherence of the 15-24 learning journey for those young people who progress to college

"I attended college for a year training to be a chef. It turns out the industry wasn't for me. I then worked in several jobs – in a restaurant, a call centre and then for a landscaping company. I have now applied to be a funeral arranger, but have also applied for an MA in Carpentry and Joinery. I have wasted so much time since leaving school not knowing what I wanted to do and chopping and changing my mind." Abbie, aged 19.

150. Colleges sit at the heart of a joined up tertiary education system and so are key to many different learner journeys. Feedback from the review highlighted the need to ensure that routes through college, and colleges as providers of Higher Education, are fully promoted to learners, parents and practitioners.

151. The review revealed that colleges fulfil the needs of a wide range of learners. For some, college is about enabling learners to have a second chance to access education and skills. For others, college provides the skills needed for work, and for some colleges provide access to higher level technical skills, often as part of a route to a degree. On this latter role, it was acknowledged that Scotland's colleges are making a significant contribution to HE level learning.

152. The review highlighted that the breadth of the college offer needs to be better understood by learners, employers and stakeholders to help develop a shared understanding of the effectiveness or efficiency of the different journeys being made through college.

153. The review made the case that to build our understanding we need to know more about the prior attainment of learners who enter college and what added value they receive from attending. We need to be clear on what we define as success for different groups of learners. In terms of retention and progression, it was stated that we need to think about the effectiveness of modes of study and the nature of provision in helping different groups of learners achieve the most successful outcomes.

154. It was noted that, in recognising the breadth of the college offer, it is important that we continue to maximise the value of the different curriculum options. In particular, that we build on DYW and the progress with the Foundation Apprenticeship, to establish routes that support the parity of college opportunities so that learners have the greatest confidence of the outcome of their investment in learning, thereby maximising their retention and outcomes.

Recommendation 11

We will support colleges to maximise the vocational pathways learners and employers need.

From 2018, we will build on and help reinforce the college sector's pivotal role in the education and skills system, in particular, in enabling: access and inclusion; routes to work; routes to higher technical skills; and routes to university. This work will include reviewing and developing the range of modes of study and the measures of success to best demonstrate impact.

Building on the progress already made by Colleges Scotland, this would be part of work to provide a clear, shared vision about the purpose of post 15-education. We will develop a national communications strategy to establish an understanding of a range of pathways/ journeys from 15-24.

Taking this forward

155. This recommendation would be led by Scottish Government working with the Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board, Colleges Scotland, Universities Scotland, business, Scottish Funding Council, Skills Development Scotland, SCQF and the Scottish Qualification Authority.

Long term Vision

We want to maximise the opportunities for young people to gain a balanced set of work-relevant skills whilst at college.

We want the work on a new narrative for colleges in Scotland to lead to improvement in vocational education – focusing on the key routes available, better purposing their outcomes and so making career education easier to the benefit of learners and employers.

156. We want to work with colleges, employers, lead industry bodies and communities to maximise learner choice, as part of an appropriate regional curriculum.

157. Recognising the important role played by colleges in providing high level technical skills, we will want to support the continued modernisation of the HN (Higher National qualification) linking this with work on college to university articulation (see below) and also to the development of graduate level opportunities within the apprenticeship family.

158. Building on the progress already made by Colleges Scotland, we will take forward this work over the course of 2018 to establish the basis for a framework for best demonstrating college ambition and supporting college effectiveness from AY2019.

Recommendation 12: Improving the design, alignment and coherence of the 15-24 learning journey for those in-training / in-work

159. As part of the review we considered the balance of provision and the different opportunities for those young people who are already in work. This review, and the Enterprise and Skills review before it, has reflected on the real challenges faced by our economy from the challenge of low productivity and the rapid rate of advances in technology.

160. In recent years, the Scottish Government has supported its national skills agency, Skills Development Scotland to respond to these challenges within the particular context of youth employment, and we have seen a significant expansion in apprenticeship opportunities as a result.

161. As part of the Developing the Young Workforce programme, SDS has most recently supported the emergence of the new apprenticeship family in Scotland, which includes Foundation Apprenticeships & Graduate Apprenticeships being developed alongside. Modern Apprenticeships. Recognising their contribution to delivering Scotland's high level skills needs, Graduate Apprenticeships are now included in the annual delivery target for apprenticeships.

162. These new opportunities are being designed to provide the connections from school to the workplace and from the workplace back into high level training. This means they provide the potential for more entrance and exit routes through the education and skills system. In particular, the new Graduate Apprenticeships provide the potential to respond to Scotland's up-skilling and re-training challenge.

163. The Scottish Government is already committed to the expansion of these new qualifications and recognises their potential to deliver efficiency improvements to the education and skills system.

Recommendation 12

We will improve choice through the expansion of Graduate Apprenticeships, to provide new higher level technical skills as part of a better balanced education and skills system. This work will start with impetus in 2018.

We will work to ensure that these opportunities are an intrinsic part of the university offer in Scotland, as an affordable, sustainable and a multi-exit alternative pathway within the system.

Taking this forward

164. This recommendation would be led by Scottish Government, working with the Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Funding Council, Universities Scotland and Colleges Scotland.

165. The initial pilot phases of Graduate Apprenticeships are continuing and are now a mainstream element of the Modern Apprenticeship offer, albeit one which has scope for further growth and development. There are also opportunities to further develop the Graduate Apprenticeship within the skills alignment work being taken forward collectively by SDS and SFC.

166. The expansion of the new Graduate Apprenticeship (as well as the Foundation Apprenticeship) also needs to be understood in the context of a common vision about the priorities and values of the learning and skills system in Scotland – see next section below. This is because the design and development of both asks questions about the types of qualifications and learning experiences we prioritise and the costs and value associated with them. The graduate level opportunities also has implications for the modernisation of the HN and the types of vocational qualifications we expect to see delivered by colleges.

167. We consider the Skills Alignment work that is in progress as part of the work of the Enterprise & Skills Review and supported by the Strategic Board's Analytical Unit, to provide the opportunity for further consideration of these issues.

Long term vision

A commitment to lifelong learning should be at the heart of our education and skills strategy.

168. It is important to ensure there is the right balance of all forms of post-secondary education, including shorter tertiary qualifications and work based learning. This balance should be informed by evidence of demand for and the return on investment of each and we talk more about this on the section of this report on data.

169. Through the Scottish Government's Enterprise and Skills Review, SDS is already working with the SFC to consider how investment in the further and higher education system is better aligned to the rest of the skills system and to the skills required by Scotland's businesses and economy, now and looking forward.

170. The structure of skills demand is subject to uncertainty across the developed economies of the world. While this makes future forecasting of specific skills requirement difficult, the key policy drivers are likely to be:

  • to continue to support a demand-led system, based on informed choice, which meets the current and projected needs of industry;
  • to offer rapid learning progression opportunities;
  • to minimise learner costs in terms of direct costs and critically in terms of lost income potential; and
  • to support increased workforce productivity.

171. On the basis of previous industrial restructuring we can anticipate that looking ahead there will likely be a need for increased agility and responsiveness in our workforce and therefore in our skills system. Increasingly, businesses are keen to work in partnership with schools, colleges, training providers and universities to secure the workforce with the right characteristics on which their future success depends. We will also likely face demands for skills support from a wider demographic than has been the case over the past few decades.

172. For those transitioning across a rapidly evolving labour market it will be important to consider the balance between specific technical skills and wider 'meta-skills'. Development of 'meta-skills' such as critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, collaboration and communication are core to Curriculum for Excellence. For the existing workforce, which has not benefitted from Curriculum for Excellence, the ability to develop and deploy such skills will be important to maintaining a skilled and productive workforce in the years ahead.

173. This will require new capacities and responsiveness in one of the key strengths of Scotland's skills system, the diversity of its delivery agents. We would look to build on this strength to ensure we translate emerging skills demand into a skilled and productive workforce in Scotland.

How will we do this?


Recommendations 13-14

Recommendation 13: Improving the design, alignment and coherence of the 15-24 learning journey for those young people who want to progress to university

174. We considered the overlap between S5/S6 and year one of university, which for those with high credit attainment at the end of S5 can result in duplicate investment and delivery of SCQF level 7 credit.

175. The review made clear that despite a four year degree with multi-entry points, just over 1 per cent of school leavers enter at year 2 of university. [19]

176. It was noted that S6 plays a number of important roles in the education system, not least in enabling many learners to gain their full complement of Highers and others to build their qualifications to secure the best positive destination. However, for those with sufficient academic credit to progress to university at the end of S5, S6 needs to be as well utilised as possible.

177. If our starting point is to make more effective use of the current system for learners then it was clear from the review that we could make much better use of the multiple entry points of the degree through better purposing and incentivising S5 and S6 and establishing the right levels of collaboration between colleges, universities and schools. This would also help support Recommendation 6 of the report of the Commission on Widening Access, " The Scottish Government, working with key stakeholders, should ensure the key transitions phases around SCQF levels 6 to 8 are better used to provide students from disadvantaged backgrounds with the qualifications and experiences required to support fair access" ; and Recommendation 18 , " Universities, colleges and local authorities should work together to provide access to a range of Higher and Advanced Higher subjects, which ensures that those from disadvantaged backgrounds or living in rural areas are not restricted in their ability to access higher education by the subject choices available to them".

178. The review identified many examples of university and school collaboration, many also involving colleges. The South East Scotland Academies Partnership, involving Queen Margaret University the YASS (Young Applicants in School) programme delivered by the Open University, which gives S6 students in Scotland the opportunity to study a range of university level modules in school; and the work of Robert Gordon's University and the North East Scotland College ( NESCOL), are all examples of universities actively supporting greater system alignment.

179. This report is not able to endorse any particular scheme or approach; all will have merits. The test for all of these types of approaches, especially when led by investment in just one part of the system, is the extent to which they enable seamless progression and aligned choice for the learner leading to improved outcomes.

180. In tackling issues of the variability of the offer to the young person from such initiatives it is for bodies like the SFC to ensure that their conditions of grant prioritise the learner and stipulate full recognition of prior attainment and maximise articulation, toward the achievement of a properly integrated system. At a system level, this needs to be supported with a clearer expectation of what the learner can expect to achieve within S5 and S6 in terms of the attainment of academic credit, and support and preparation for their next stage of learning, training or employment.

Recommendation 13

We will minimise unnecessary duplication at SCQF level 7. We will make maximum use of the flexibility of the four year degree to enable learners to move, where appropriate, from S5 to year 1 and, through greater recognition of Advanced Highers, from S6 to year 2 of a university degree programme.

Taking this forward

181. This recommendation would be led by Scottish Government working with COSLA, Local Authorities, Head Teachers Association, ADES, Scottish Funding Council, Universities Scotland and Colleges Scotland.

182. We think this will take a number of years to be normalised. It starts by concluding the work on ensuring a shared vision for the education and skills system. We propose this to be taken forward as a national school/university collaboration programme. This comes under the remit of the Curriculum and Assessment Board, and will involve headteachers, Directors of Education, Regional Improvement Collaboratives, Colleges Scotland, Universities Scotland, SQA and Education Scotland to deliver this improvement.

183. We note the important role played here by the Scottish Credit Qualifications Framework ( SCQF). In so doing, we also acknowledge the challenge of greater alignment since the volume of learning hours and thus SCQF credit attached to qualifications by programme owners (designers) is not equal. An SCQF level does not mean (or require that) the same volume of credit is attached to each qualification at the same level. For example, an HNC can be achieved with 96 credit points but a year of university study is equivalent to 120 credits (a year of an HND consists of 120 credits). Three advanced Highers (at 32 SCQF credit points respectively) don't make up the 120 credit requirement of a year of university study. The Scottish Baccalaureate is a level 7 qualification but only delivers 104 SCQF credit points. All these qualifications sit at the same level ( SCQF 7) meaning they have the same level of complexity and difficulty but the volume of work required by a learner to achieve each qualification is different. This means aligning the system by SCQF credit as well as level is not straightforward.

184. Progress, therefore, will involve universities and schools working more closely together involving greater co-design and delivery of level 7 by universities in schools; involve universities enhancing local arrangements and developing much stronger transition arrangements specifically to overcome issues of learner maturity and the needs arising from school to university transition; ensuring the availability of Advanced Highers and purposing their credit for recognition for entry to year 2 of university.

185. At the same time our approach and commitment to young people needs to be more than just credit alignment. The parental voice in this review expressed concern about young people entering year two of an established degree course. Their concerns over learners receiving a disjointed learning experience makes clear the need for a more coherent offer and learning experience.

186. A first step toward this is mapping availability of Advanced Higher ( AH) provision across Scotland and responding to gaps to ensure there is real choice for all pupils staying on into S6 in the senior phase. Work will be necessary to ensure the AH is delivered in such a way as to provide a sufficiently rich learning experience which supports the transition to university, including direct entry to year two where appropriate..

187. Scotland's nineteen higher education institutions will be required to enhance their positive support to date for Curriculum for Excellence. The improvements proposed by this review will have implications for universities' admissions requirements and for how teaching and learning is delivered at university. Since Universities Scotland has been closely involved in the development of Curriculum for Excellence we think institutions will be well placed to respond flexibly to strengthening links with schools. Given the sector's expansion in admitting students with different qualifications from around the world we see this work moving forward with momentum.

188. As part of their partnership with the Scottish Government, we would expect universities to re-state their shared commitments to supporting the school senior phase.

Long term vision

A recurring theme throughout this review is the need for collaboration across a range of partners. It is clear our 15-24 education and skills system can only meet the needs of young people if it is jointly designed and delivered with colleges, universities, CLD and third sector and employers. Through many of these actions we aim to create the conditions to support and enable further collaboration between schools and these partners.

189. We want a senior phase curriculum that works as well as possible for all young people. This will be supported through the full realisation of DYW and as part of this we would expect to see the co-creation of the curriculum by colleges, training providers and third sector organisations to deliver a more diverse and richer learning experience for all young people.

190. We want to normalise the opportunities for young people to develop a balanced set of work-relevant skills whilst within school. We want schools, colleges, training providers, universities and youth work to collaborate on this, developing a joint regional curriculum offer that responds to the changing needs of the economy, and recognises the different skills needed at all levels.

We want to strengthen collaboration by supporting Regional Improvement Collaboratives ( RICs) to play a role in this work.

191. There was wide feedback from stakeholders that the new Regional Improvement Collaboratives provide a valuable opportunity to strengthen collaboration between educational partners to improve outcomes for learners and have the potential to play an important role in supporting this work.

We want to develop a national cross-sector CLPL (Career Long Professional Learning) programme for schools, colleges, universities and third sector.

192. There is a significant knowledge-base in colleges and universities and third sector which could be better utilised to enhance the curriculum offer in schools and support transitions and progression. This could include work with national bodies ( GTCS, Education Scotland including SCEL, SDS and CDN) to plan staff development and professional learning which can be delivered across all education sectors. This would build on work already underway by SCEL, Education Scotland and the Professional Learning Network to develop staff capacity across sectors. A National Professional Learning reference group has been established by Education Scotland and should be built upon.

Recommendation 14: Improving the design, alignment and coherence of the 15-24 learning journey for college HE learners

193. Colleges and universities deliver higher education in Scotland. As part of their higher education offer, colleges deliver HNs - a higher national qualification, vocational in nature but with adaptations capable of supporting a learner on an academic route into higher education at university. The HN is available at two SCQF levels - an HNC at SCQF level 7 and an HND at SCQF level 8.

194. For a long time now many colleges and universities have worked together to deliver full-progression from a college HNC to year 2 of a degree and from a college HND to year three of a degree. This makes maximum use of the four year degree, such that all learner academic credit is recognised and so there is no wasted study time when learners progress to university. The system calls this 'articulation'.

195. The review considered the journeys made in and through higher education and reflected on the fact that more than half of college learners still repeat a level of study at university.

196. The Commissioner for Fair Access, in his 2017 annual report, called for this lack of recognition of college credit to be urgently addressed and recommended that universities commit to substantial progress in this area [20] .

197. Over the last ten years, curriculum planning and significant additional investment has meant that around 50 per cent of college HN learners now articulate. [21] Scotland's ancient universities do significantly less articulation. Arguably, this is since they face greater demand for places so they are less incentivised to need to maximise entry by means other than school entry. However, there are reasonable limits to the extent of articulation. Firstly, the HN is designed to promote progression to specific vocations so not all HN courses need to or should be about achieving learner articulation to university. Secondly, if curriculum, pedagogy, support arrangements and learning skills do not align between college and university courses, then completion rates are threatened, which makes the route a more precarious one for learners.

198. Work is underway to further the amount of full-progression possible, and Universities Scotland and Colleges Scotland recently established a National Articulation Forum to help facilitate this work going forward.

199. Through Review engagement, there was consensus to build on the strengths of the progress made to date, but to better systemise the conclusion of this work to overcome the variability of the experience for the learner.

200. The review rejected the idea of developing new level 7 and 8 qualifications as this, arguably, undermines the strengths of the Scottish system, and the HN in particular – which in many cases it would need to replace. In addition to this, it was felt this had the potential to create added confusion for the learner; and would take time and resource for further qualification development, whilst acknowledging the time needed for its full adoption.

201. This will help support the recommendation of the Commission on Widening Access that transitions phases around SCQF levels 6 to 8 be better used to provide students from disadvantaged backgrounds with the qualifications and experiences required to support fair access.

Recommendation 14

We will support colleges and universities to ensure more learners progress from college to all our universities without unnecessary duplication of SCQF credit.

We will more fully align our college and university higher education system to meet learner expectation, to ensure full recognition of prior college learning where appropriate.

We expect all universities to actively support this to happen and to commit to substantially increasing the proportion of HN learners they admit with full credit to at least the 75-per-cent benchmark identified by SFC. We will ask universities to set out the reasons why articulation is not possible for any learners transferring within the same broad subject areas, and the steps being taken to enable it.

We expect the universities who traditionally have low numbers of articulating students to also commit to substantially increasing the number of HN learners they admit.

Taking this forward

202. This recommendation would be led by Scottish Funding Council working with the Strategic Board, Colleges Scotland, Universities Scotland, Scottish Qualifications Authority and Scottish Qualifications and Credit Framework Partnership.

203. In taking this forward, and to make maximum use of the strengths of the four year degree, universities are asked to commit to substantially increasing the proportion of HN learners they admit with full credit to at least the 75-per-cent benchmark identified by SFC. We will seek to move toward the approach advocated by the Commissioner for Fair Access, whereby the starting assumption for all learners should be that they can articulate with full credit and where this is not the case it must be fully justified. We would expect this work to prioritise resolving the curriculum issues in relation to all courses currently receiving partial recognition; establishing a mechanism to safeguard the learner experience whereby learners are supported to move through and beyond their transition from college to university; and establishing strong monitoring arrangements to show progress.

Long term Vision

Over time this commitment should broaden to include more consistent mechanisms for the appropriate recognition of all prior learning and not just from colleges.

204. This work should also involve a commitment (which can run parallel) to the on-going modernisation of the HN – linking also to the work proposed on colleges set out above and to the on-going development of Graduate Apprenticeships.


205. In considering the better alignment of the education and skills system, we will want to maximise the opportunities created by advances in digitalisation and the growth in online learning opportunities. E-sgoil, the West Lothian Virtual Campus, the Open University in Scotland and the University of Highlands & Islands are all examples of the use of digital solutions to improving choice for learners, particularly in remote areas, and in supporting our ambition for greater personalisation of learning.

206. In building greater collaboration and enabling learners to learn across institutions and transition points, we will want to see all partnerships make greater use of and embrace the expansion of digital solutions in support of the development of a collaborative regional curriculum offer.

How will we do this?


Recommendations 15–16

Recommendations 15 & 16: Leadership

Young people told us:

  • There is still a strong focus on attainment and qualifications within schools, to the neglect of wider development and support needs.
  • This focus on attainment and qualifications was reported to be resulting in high levels of stress and pressure on young people, particularly during exam periods.
  • There is a perceived lack of parity of esteem between academic and vocational career pathways, with fewer options available to those who want to pursue technical subjects in the senior phase of secondary school, and an assumption that those who do well academically should go to university.
  • They are aware of biases surrounding different post-school routes. University is positioned as the 'gold standard' for those who achieve well academically, with alternative options and routes rarely considered or discussed with this cohort. Vocational pathways, including apprenticeships and other types of training, were perceived as being a lesser option. Young people said that they would like to be given impartial information on all available pathways in order to make informed choices.

The Poverty Commissioner recommended that we must:

  • Do more to value non-academic learning routes, post-school.

207. It is clear from our engagement work that, at a national level, we need to articulate a more coherent vision and a clear overarching rationale for post 15 education in Scotland.

208. This should set clear expectations in relation to collaboration between local authorities, schools, colleges, youth work, universities, business and employers, clearly articulating the roles they should play and the outcomes we expect to see for all young people. In order to address the longstanding issue around parity of esteem, this must demonstrate the value of all the different pathways that young people can follow and the options at different points of leaving.

209. In terms of post 15 learning, this should clarify the breadth of learning we want to deliver; the range of places in which it can be delivered; and the value of different pathways for young people. It should also focus on the needs of different learners (with particular attention given to statutory leavers and the "middle group" of young people, for whom the learner journey is not as coherent as it could be).

210. The education and skills system needs to be capable of doing several things at once in order to respond to learner choice and meet employer needs. This means there will always be judgements to make about the balance and nature of provision. An effective system is able to adjust this balance accordingly because it has the tools and information needed to do so.

211. To do this we need to be clear on the effectiveness of the system, which requires us to be clear on what we want the education and skills system to achieve and the contribution we expect to be made by its respective parts.

212. This will require greater alignment and collaboration across the system. Governance of the system is changing and stakeholders highlighted that the new Regional Improvement Collaboratives could play a pivotal role in helping to deliver the vision.

Recommendation 15

We will provide system leadership to ensure there is a shared vision about the purposes of post 15 education.

Recommendation 16

We will support greater alignment and collaboration across the education and skills system making best use of the Scottish Candidate Number to help support effective transitions.

This includes consideration of how we maximise the value of existing structures, such as the new Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board or the new Scottish Education Council; and how we support a connection between the new regional collaboratives with regional colleges, universities and the respective quality arrangements of the different parts of the system.

This also sets an expectation for leaders to commit to further improving the collaboration effort across the system, and including the commitments of head teachers, CLD leaders, college and university senior staff and employers.

Taking this forward

213. These recommendations would be led by the Scottish Government with all our key agencies and partners.

214. We should take time to develop a single narrative which better explains what we expect of the contribution of the whole system in supporting the aligned, but often competing interests of learner choice, attainment and inclusive economic growth. The starting point for this should be the experience of the learner and the employer and it should build on: Curriculum for Excellence and the relationship between the four learner capacities (successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens, effective contributors); extending this into our understanding of colleges, universities and workplaces. This work should give further consideration to the type of skills and vocational education we expect schools, colleges and others to deliver in partnership with business, employers and universities.

215. There are potential implications for the governance and leadership of the wider education and skills system. This includes the need to more effectively join up this leadership; get the maximum contribution from the new Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board and the new Scottish Education Council; and enable the new Regional Improvement Collaboratives to connect with business, regional colleges, universities and help align the respective quality arrangements of the different parts of the system.

216. Leaders will also be required to address how schools, colleges, universities, CLD and employers best provide and align subject choice and careers information across the system delivering for young people, employers and the wider economy.

How will we do this?


Recommendation 17

Recommendation 17: Performance data

Young people told us:

  • There is a need for better integration of the various elements of the education and learning system, and for learners to receive appropriate advice and support at key points in their journeys, to enable them to successfully navigate this.

The Poverty Commissioner recommended that we:

  • Continue work to improve data collection and sharing to track post school participation in learning, training and work for young people and make better use of that information to improve service delivery and develop Scottish Government policy.

217. It is clear that a raft of information and data on young peoples' progress is held by national and local bodies in Scotland but work is needed across national partners to better share data and to monitor and track learners' journeys more coherently from 15-24 years, with the aim of ensuring that all individuals are supported to participate and that outcomes inform provision planning.

218. In terms of information about the impact generated from the system we considered the return on investment of different parts of the education and skills system.

219. In these discussions, whilst average costs of provision were known, it remained extremely difficult to make judgements about efficiency without a clearer understanding of what the system is measured against. It was felt that a framework of shared outcomes is required to determine the system's effectiveness for learners in order to better determine value and funding decisions.

220. We discussed better incentivising positive outcomes/destinations for early school leavers and other vulnerable groups via existing/planned mechanisms, for example, attainment funding and the implications of the intensification of college and university outcome agreements.

221. Better and more coordinated use of data to support learner journeys, and a more consistent approach to measuring performance to drive improvements was the main conclusion - noting that, as we currently do not measure value consistently across our system, making judgements about its effectiveness for learners is, therefore, difficult.

222. We need, therefore, to improve the measurement of the return on investment and establish the financial effectiveness and efficiency of the system to drive our investment in the system to be able to tell the full story of impact. This will allow us to be able to use this information to inform the balance of provision and inform learners of the probability of a positive outcome for the different pathways available to them.

Recommendation 17

We will develop better data and improve how existing data is used to support learners make the right choices for them. We will also develop a performance framework to drive improvements across the system as a whole.

We will ensure a more co-ordinated use of data across national organisations, to better understand the impact of different learner journeys:

  • This will start with the Longitudinal Educational Outcomes ( LEO) project which will improve the evidence around outcomes for university and college learners and those undertaking training.
  • Look to develop a consistent set of performance measures and make best use of the Scottish Candidate Number.
  • We will consider how the National Improvement Framework could be developed to support the 15-24 learner journey.

Taking this forward

223. This recommendation will require a multi-agency approach. It will be led by the Scottish Government with input from a range of organisations including SFC, SDS, Local Authorities, Colleges, Universities, Education Scotland, SQA and also working alongside the Enterprise and Skills Analytical Unit.

224. When considering the need for a unique learner number, it was felt that the existing Scottish Candidate Number ( SCN) offered the most potential to allow learners to better track their progress through the education and skills system, and to assist easier transitions. At a national level, the SCN would allow agencies which support young people to better understand learner pathways through school and beyond and more accurately capture the outcomes of their different choices. Predictive analysis could also support planning of interventions from early years, through school and into further and higher education and training and employment.

225. By extending the scope of the National Improvement Framework to age 24, we could better fulfil the original ambition of the NIF by asking "everyone working in Scottish education" to be clear about how they can contribute to addressing the four key priorities. This would promote greater collaboration and provide a holistic overview of young peoples' progress through their learner journey and support the shared vision across partners.

226. This work is likely to involve a number of stages. Initially, we will look to scope how existing data can be improved and identify data gaps. We will then develop a performance framework to drive improvement across the system and measure impact in a consistent way – looking at the value added by each part. This will allow us to provide better access to evidence that will support learners and employers to make more informed decision on their learner pathways.

Long term vision

227. It is important that funding works across the system in such a way that it helps young people make decisions based on what works for them and for the economy. Therefore, we need to act on the information we collect and use that information to support learners to make more informed choices.

228. Over time, and making maximum use of better aligned governance of the system as a whole, acting on evidence of outcomes and return on investment, should redress the inconsistencies of investment in different qualifications and different types of learning.


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