Developing the young workforce: fifth annual progress report 2018-2019

Fifth annual report of developing the young workforce covers academic year 2018 to 2019 and highlights early progress made in the first part of academic year 2019-2020.

Chapter 1: Schools

Increasing numbers of young people are now studying higher level vocational qualifications at school.

Key Indicators

Outcomes (KPIs)

  • There has been a year on year increase in the number of school leavers achieving vocational qualifications at SCQF level 5 and above. 14.8% of 2017/18 school leavers attained 1+ award at SCQF 5 or better This is an increase of 2.0 percentage points since 2016/17, and an increase of 7.5 percentage points since the baseline in 2013/14;
  • The percentage of employers recruiting young people directly from education has remained stable at 32% since the baseline was measured in 2014.


  • An increasing number of senior phase pupils are enrolling on vocational qualifications at college, at SCQF level 5 and above, since DYW was introduced. 5,216 young people were enrolled on these courses as of 2017/18, an increase of 692 in 2016/17 (when the figure was 4,510) and an increase of 3,101 since the baseline in 2013/14 (when the figure was 2,101);
  • In 2018, 1,532 young people enrolled on a Foundation Apprenticeship. This is an increase of 287 since 2017, when 1,245 people enrolled, Each year since baseline, Foundation Apprenticeship enrolments have increased:
    • 346 enrolments in 2016;
    • 269 enrolments in 2015;
    • 63 enrolments in 2014, the baseline figure.

(This activity delivers on Developing the Young Workforce Recommendations 1, 2, 3, 16, 26, 27, 28, 33, 37).

At its outset DYW achieved overwhelming support from all parts of the learning and skills system. Since then, the implementation of the programme has seen an expansion in collaborative activity between schools, colleges and employers.

As these partnerships have strengthened, we have seen an expansion in curriculum provision in secondary schools that includes an increasingly diverse range of courses delivered primarily by colleges; the development of a new qualification – the Foundation Apprenticeship; the introduction of a national standard for careers education and work placements in school; and new networks to facilitate cross system working, including the development of the national DYW leads network where leads in support of DYW come together from local authorities, colleges and the DYW Regional Groups.

We also have ensured that the work-based learning offer in school is part of a blended learning approach that is available to all learners, focused on providing options at different levels and with different progression opportunities. DYW has set the agenda for establishing and embedding a range of learning options, offering more choice to all learners. However, more work needs to be done to reduce regional variances in the curriculum offer to ensure that all young people have access to a relevant breadth of choice to meet their needs.

A refreshed narrative for Scotland's curriculum

To embed DYW within the broader curriculum offer, we have been working with partners to establish a new approach to support young people to engage with work-based learning. This approach, a refreshed narrative on Scotland's curriculum can be used by all education settings 3-18 and their partners. It was launched at the Scottish Learning Festival 2019 by the Deputy First Minister and is a product of collaboration between education practitioners, academics, local government, Education Scotland and key educational bodies. It has been widely endorsed across the leadership of Scottish education.

DYW and GIRFEC are embedded with CfE in the refreshed narrative. Principles and practices that lie at the heart of DYW are woven throughout. The narrative restates the longstanding aims of the curriculum within our current context in Scotland. It is a resource that will allow practitioners to engage with the core principles of the curriculum and support them to continue to design and develop a curriculum offer that meets the needs and aspirations of all children and young people.

National Improvement Framework (NIF)

To support the implementation of DYW within the school curriculum we have included it within the Scottish Government's National Improvement Framework.

This framework exists to build understanding of what works to drive improvements for children and young people across all parts of the Scottish education system. It sets out the vision and priorities for Scottish education that have been agreed across the system, and the national improvement activity that needs to be undertaken to help deliver the key priorities:

  • Improvement in attainment, particularly in literacy and numeracy;
  • Closing the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged children and young people;
  • Improvement in children and young people's health and wellbeing;
  • Improvement in employability skills and sustained, positive school-leaver destinations for all young people.

As part of this we include focusing on delivery of DYW as a key element of the curriculum to increase the number of young people reaching a positive and sustained destination.

Key priorities for this year were recognised as being:

  • Support and encourage the empowerment of school leaders and school communities, and to create a culture of collaborative and system leadership;
  • Education Scotland to work with partners to develop a range of resources to support teachers and professional learning providers in using the new national model of professional learning;
  • Continue to support use of the Insight Senior Phase Benchmarking Tool at a local level, and the new BGE Benchmarking Tool for use by schools, local authorities and RICs to inform and support their improvement activities.

This year's NIF and Improvement Plan will be published on 10 December 2019.


Key themes and milestones for schools

We want to:

  • Engage with the refreshed narrative for Scotland's curriculum, using it as an opportunity to ensure that employers are included in curriculum development and to ensure that the curriculum reflects the world of work;
  • Expand the curriculum offer to increase the pathways from school into employment;
  • Engage young people, parents, teachers, practitioners, partners and employers in curriculum design and in promoting greater choice in school;
  • Support teachers and practitioners to develop children's and young people's knowledge of the world of work;
  • Provide careers advice when young people need it, leading to better knowledge of capabilities and more informed choice to progress to those opportunities;
  • Involve employers in both developing and delivering the school curriculum;
  • Consolidate partnership working between schools, colleges and other training providers.

Senior Phase Vocational Pathways

To raise attainment in schools, DYW aims to increase the range of subject choices and provide pathways to more courses which start at SCQF level 5 and above. In schools, we want to see more of these level 5 vocational courses connect with other courses to provide pathways to higher level skills, to enhance young people's readiness for the world of work. We refer to such courses as evidence of Senior Phase vocational pathways (SPVPs). Courses below this level play a key role in ensuring progression to the appropriate level 5 qualifications, as well as being important achievements in their own right.

In this year, we continue to see good progress in the expansion of choices for young people through an increased number of college courses delivered within schools. According to the Scottish Funding Council, there has been a continued increase in the number of senior phase enrolments on vocational pathways, at SCQF level 5 and above, since DYW was introduced. This increase is also reflected in an increase in overall credit activity (a measure of college activity) that colleges are committing to SPVPs. Skills Development Scotland and wider partners have continued to develop and promote information and support materials for parents, who are a vital influence and support to young people as they make their decisions in the Senior Phase.

Figures from the Scottish Funding Council show:

  • There has been a year on year increase in the number of school leavers achieving vocational qualifications at SCQF level 5 and above. 14.8% of 2017/18 school leavers achieved a vocational qualification. This is an increase of 2 percentage points since 2016/17, and an increase of 7.5 percentage points since the baseline in 2013/14;
  • There has been an increase in the number of senior phase pupils studying vocational qualifications, at SCQF 5 and above, delivered by Colleges. In 2017/18, 5,216 young people were studying these courses, an increase of 692 from 2016/17 (when the figure was 4,510) and an increase of 3,101 from 2013/14 (the baseline, when the figure was 2,101);
  • The number of 16 – 24 years olds enrolled on STEM-related courses in college has increased. In 2017/18, 40,517 young people were enrolled on these qualifications, an increase of 1,202 from 2016/17 (when the figure was 39,315) and an increase of 2,477 from 2013/14 (the baseline, when the figure was 38,040);
  • The successful completion rate for Senior Phase pupils studying vocational qualifications at college has increased. In 2017/18, 66.9% of senior phase pupils studying vocational qualifications at college successfully completed – this is an increase of 3.6 percentage points since 2016/17 (when the figure was 63.3%), and an increase of 0.9 percentage points since 2013/14 (the baseline, when the figure was 66%);
  • There has been an increase in the proportion of 16 – 24 year old college students who have successfully completed a full time course and then moved into employment or higher level study. In 2017/18, 86.4% of college leavers who successfully completed a full time course went onto employment or higher level study. This is an increase of 1.1 percentage points from 2016/17 (when the figure was 85.3%) and an increase of 3.5 percentage points since 2014/15[2] (the baseline year, when the figure was 82.9%).

Looking ahead, and at the forecast activity from colleges over the next three years, colleges project a continued expansion of vocational pathways. SFC forecasts that for AY 2019/20 to AY 2020/21 propose further increases with recruitment of over 7,470 enrolments on Senior Phase vocational pathways projected for AY 2019/20 and 7,848 enrolments projected by AY 2020/21. This is in addition to the range of activity delivered by schools nationally.

Foundation Apprenticeships

To ensure vocational courses can lead to higher level skills, both at university as well as work, Skills Development Scotland (SDS), in partnership with the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), local authorities, and industry, developed a new qualification, the Foundation Apprenticeship (FA). This is a school based apprenticeship connected to the family of apprenticeships, which provide young people with higher level work based learning and employment experience.

FAs have been designed and developed with industry and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and are aligned to key sectors of the economy that have current skills shortages and projected future jobs growth. The qualification is set at the same level of learning as a Higher (SCQF level 6) and includes SQA certified qualifications at SCQF level 6 incorporating: National Certificates, National Progression Award (NPA) units and SVQ units.

The FA programme is delivered through partnerships between schools, a local college or learning provider, and local employers. FAs offer a blend of academic and work-based learning for young people in the senior phase of secondary school.

A progress report on the delivery of FAs was published on 19 February 2019. In this year, there has been further progress in the expansion of FA opportunities, with over 5,000 available from AY 2019/20. Looking ahead, we will focus on supporting schools, colleges and employers to engage with SDS to address regional and sectoral gaps in the FA offer, and promote the benefit of these new opportunities to young people, parents, practitioners and employers.

We want FAs to be available in all secondary schools so that all young people have the opportunity to take up these opportunities irrespective of the school they attend or geographical region they study.

To ensure the qualification meets the needs of the learner and employers, we have committed to evaluating the FA over the coming year. This will include reviewing the current design and delivery models to maximise learner success and reduce the proportion of early leavers. We will also work with Education Scotland and SDS to evaluate the effectiveness of FA and vocational education delivery in schools.

Supporting more young people to engage in work-based learning

Achieving greater choice in schools by introducing, developing and delivering a new qualification for young people in their Senior Phase is not without its challenges. New options must be embedded as an integral part of the curriculum, including the school timetable and within available resource. The partnership nature of FA delivery also requires alignment of these resources across a number of schools and colleges. This is not withstanding a range of practical issues which also require careful consideration, including transport and health and safety.

To do this, we expect schools and colleges choices to build pathways to the FA. In support of this, SDS is piloting new courses with employers to provide an earlier introduction to the skills required on a FA.

These new courses will be available at SCQF level 4 and 5. At SCQF level 4, the qualifications will offer the opportunity to experience a range of skills, in order to aid understanding of a sector, and to apply the skills learned in a practical context. At SCQF level 5, a young person will be able to specialise from the range of sector options available. These new courses will build on and add to the existing skills based qualifications that provide an introduction to employability and industry skills and knowledge forming a useful precursor to the FA portfolio.

Timetabling that meets the needs of the learner

We continue to be mindful of the challenge of timetabling, and achieving a flexible approach that meets the needs of young people and supports learners in experiencing a blended form of learning. To help us in assessing our progress towards this an online survey was distributed to all secondary school headteachers in June 2019. The survey was intended to encourage headteachers to provide their views and experiences of implementing the Senior Phase curriculum.

A total of 159 responses forms the basis of the report. The response rate was 45% and the sample was broadly representative of secondary schools in Scotland in relation to size of school, urban/rural location, and proportion of pupils from 20% most deprived areas.

Key messages to note are:

  • 97% of headteachers reported that they are flexible in their approach and offer individualised timetables where possible;
  • 95% of headteachers say that young people can shape their senior phase. For example, 90% of schools reported offering N4, N5, Highers, Foundation Apprenticeships and college provision in S5;
  • The majority of headteachers (85%) feel they are achieving an "integrated, progressive and coherent experience for young people in the Senior Phase";
  • The majority of headteachers (77%) are very confident or confident that their school provides a sufficient variety of learning pathways to meet the needs of all their young people across the Senior Phase;
  • A majority (88%) also felt they had sufficient autonomy to determine the pathways that their school offers in the Senior Phase;
  • Schools offered a wide range of courses and qualifications, including college provision (93% of schools at S5), Duke of Edinburgh Award (91% of schools at S4), Foundation Apprenticeship (94% at S5), and Saltire Awards (69% at S6);
  • Over half of headteachers (54%) start initial planning for the Senior Phase when young people are in S2.

A higher standard of Careers Information and Guidance

To raise young people's awareness of the different pathways and careers available we developed the Career Education Standard (3-18) (CES 3-18). This supports starting career education and careers advice and guidance earlier in schools, to help young people understand their capabilities and develop their aspirations to make informed learning and careers choices as they progress through their learning.

The Career Education Standard (3-18) is one of a suite of three documents developed, along with Work Placements Standard and Guidance on School/Employer Partnerships, that provide support and guidance to those within the education system. A wide range of support materials are now available to teachers and practitioners on the National Improvement Hub to support the implementation of the standard.

We continue to see evidence of more schools using the Career Education Standard to support young people's preparation for the world of work. Analysis of the evidence gathered from inspections carried out in 2018-19 indicate that across all sectors schools are supporting children and young people well to develop skills for learning, life and work. Evidence also suggests the strategic leadership within secondary schools for the development and implementation of DYW has improved overall. In a recent information gathering exercise, local authority DYW leads reported that 85% of secondary schools were using the entitlements for young people set out in the Career Education Standard to shape learning. However, the pace of progress across sectors continues to be slower than expected at this stage of the programme, and we expect to see all partners support more schools to implement the standard over the next year.

To further support and enable young people in considering their career pathways, Skills Development Scotland (SDS) continues to deliver a comprehensive range of career information advice and guidance (CIAG) services. This includes:

  • An early career education digital offer for primary schools P5-P7 via My World of Work (MyWoW);
  • SDS's web service for individuals, MyWoW;
  • Group engagements at P7/S1 through to Senior Phase;
  • Parental engagement from P7/S1 to S6;
  • Career guidance 1:1 support at subject choice phase including 1:1 offer for parents/carers;
  • A sustained coaching relationship from S3 to S6 delivering 1:1 career guidance interventions.


Work is continuing to implement the STEM Education and Training Strategy to support STEM learning in schools and contribute to the aims of the DYW programme. In this year, this has included:

  • Ongoing provision of bursaries to support career changers to re-train as STEM secondary school teachers, and development of contextualised learning resources for teachers by Skills Development Scotland, to help ensure that learners can link their learning to real-life situations and careers;
  • Provision of grants by Education Scotland for the development of STEM professional learning for practitioners in schools, early learning and community learning settings, to build teacher confidence in STEM and allow for groups of practitioners to work together locally as well as for regional and national partners to provide CLPL. Relevant outputs will be shared online;
  • Regional STEM Advisers, working with the Regional Improvement Collaboratives, schools, local authorities and regional partners;
  • Delivery of a pilot of the Young STEM Leaders programme by the Scottish Schools Education Research Centre to support young people to inspire each other to get involved in STEM;
  • Continued funding for Scotland's four science centres, including a school transport and community subsidy to enable engagement with a greater diversity of people;
  • 'Aye For Ideas' – a shared communications approach to inspire and engage people of all ages and backgrounds with STEM.

Looking forward, through the implementation of the Learner Journey Programme, we will seek to enhance our approach to careers information. We have launched an all-age online learner account which will support young people when planning their pathways through school, regardless of their destination, whether that be college, university, apprenticeships and employment. We will soon publish a Careers' Strategy to support the alignment of existing services and set the vision for high quality career information, advice and guidance services that are accessible to all.


We are mindful of the need to increase the pace of change within schools, and support more young people onto positive destinations. To assist us in identifying challenges and to discuss potential solutions, four strategic events were held in February and March 2019, chaired by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Funding Council. These brought together Directors of Education, college principals and other stakeholders to share ideas, identify challenges and discuss potential solutions, to ensure continued progress towards achieving the aims of DYW. These identified the following concerns:

  • Timetabling and resourcing remains a barrier to providing an equitable work-based experience for all young people;
  • More work is needed to support disabled and care experienced young people to engage in DYW activity, such as work experience placements;
  • Clear communication, including consistency of messages and language, is needed to ensure understanding across the sector, including young people and parents;
  • Recent research into the influence of parents and carers in terms of young people's subject choice found that DYW is not fully understood by these groups;
  • Work still needs to be done to achieve a culture shift and establish parity of esteem across all pathways;
  • There is a need to better support the ongoing professional development of the sectors to support improved joint working for the benefit of the learner;
  • Whilst we are seeing impact at a local level, there remains inconsistency across the system and we must work to address this to ensure the consistent delivery of outcomes for all of our young people;
  • Further progress is needed to develop education-employer partnerships, to be responsive to local needs and ensure that quality opportunities are created, including work placements in line with the Work Placement Standard.

Next Steps

During 2019 - 2020, we expect to see:

  • An increase in the uptake of vocational qualifications available to those in the Senior Phase.

During 2020 - 2021, we expect to see:

  • An increase in the uptake of vocational qualifications available to those in the Senior Phase;
  • Sustainable school/employer partnerships.

Case study: Foundation Apprentice of the Year – Joe Pirrie

A Foundation Apprenticeship supports Fife's Joe Pirrie to progress onto a full-time job at a local nursery.

After completing his school journey earlier this year, the 17-year-old now finds himself working, learning and earning through a Modern Apprenticeship at the Ladybird Family Nurture Centre in Glenrothes.

Joe's progress was such that he was awarded Foundation Apprentice of the year on 7 November at the Scottish Apprenticeship Awards.

Just three years ago, Joe was ready to leave school for college but didn't have the qualifications to follow his dream career in childcare – thankfully there was a solution.

Joe explained: "I completed a childcare course at school in second and third year and also worked as a kids party host, so I knew what I wanted to do but wasn't sure how to actually get there.

"My deputy head teacher then told me about the Children and Young People Foundation Apprenticeship, which would allow me to stay at school and get my National 5s in English and Maths."

Foundation Apprenticeships are subject choices for pupils in the senior phase and can be taken over one or two years. Pupils spend time out the classroom with a learning provider and in a workplace to gain a qualification at the same level as a Higher – which is recognised by all of Scotland's universities and colleges.

Joe completed a placement at Little Einsteins Nursery in sixth year after spending time at college two afternoons a week in fifth year.

He advised "I was beginning to think that it would be impossible for me to become an Early Years Officer because learning in the classroom didn't really work for me. Putting the theory into practice through the Foundation Apprenticeship was the perfect combination."

Having dyslexia and dyspraxia meant the practical side of apprenticeships suited him.

He said: "I was beginning to think that it would be impossible for me to become an Early Years Officer because learning in the classroom didn't really work for me.

"Putting the theory into practice through the Foundation Apprenticeship was the perfect combination."

Joe added: "There's no doubting progressing onto a Modern Apprenticeship has massively increased my confidence.

"My mum's really proud because she can see how happy I am when I come in at night."

There was also a message for anyone else considering a Foundation Apprenticeship: "If you believe in yourself then you can definitely do it.

"I hadn't thought about an apprenticeship before but now know I want to work in childcare for the rest of my life."

Joe Pirrie, Modern Apprentice

Ladybird Nurture Centre Head Teacher Wendy Anthony explained the benefits of apprenticeships to Joe and the childcare sector overall.

She said: "The Foundation Apprenticeship allowed Joe to take on responsibility which is crucial for stepping into the world of work – this made it an easy decision to employ him as a Modern Apprentice.

"Apprenticeships are hugely important during the current expansion of childcare hours across Scotland. Work-based learning alongside academic study means we'll have a successful generation of practitioners for years to come."

"The Foundation Apprenticeship allowed Joe to take on responsibility which is crucial for stepping into the world of work – this made it an easy decision to employ him as a Modern Apprentice."

Wendy Anthony, Ladybird Nurture Centre Head Teacher



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