Coronavirus (COVID-19) education recovery: key actions and next steps

Outlines our ongoing response to the impacts of the pandemic on education in Scotland, and sets out some key next steps we will take to address them.

8. Supporting Positive Destinations For Young People

Further Education, Higher Education and Community Learning & Development

The disruption caused by COVID-19 to in-person learning has been extremely challenging for students of colleges, universities and community learning settings. Learners, teachers, lecturers, support staff, parents, carers and families have made phenomenal efforts in supporting continued education for Scotland's students across two unprecedented academic years. This section sets out some of the support SG and partners have put in place to facilitate ongoing learning for these key groups as we more through and out of the pandemic.

At the heart of our work, SG has established two new groups to inform decision-making and take into account experience and perspectives of all relevant stakeholders and organisations. The COVID-19 Advisory Sub-Group on Universities and Colleges and the Advanced Learning COVID Recovery Group continue to provide excellent support to the SG, guiding our next steps on COVID-19 recovery and post-16 learning in the coming academic year.

SG financial support provided to students over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic has been substantial, with now over £96 million being provided via hardship funding, digital access, mental health support and for student associations. SG has also committed to review the future of summer support and the availability of funds will be monitored to ensure support remain available to students throughout summer 2021. We are continuing to work closely with the college and university sectors and NUS Scotland on the issues students are facing and on raising awareness of the support available.

Recognising the mental health and wellbeing challenges facing students, in addition to our investment through the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) of over £7 million in the last two academic years, to help colleges and universities recruit and access additional counsellors we have:

  • Provided additional funding of £1.32 million last year to help students deal with the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and £750,000 to NUS Scotland and student associations for vital welfare support.
  • Continued to support the NUS Think Positive Initiative which has a COVID-19 focus.

We have also committed a further £4.2 million for academic year 2021/22 to further support our counsellor commitment, and to address the issue of equity of access to counsellors for college students, and additional funding of £4.4 million for colleges to help students and staff deal with the impacts of the pandemic.

Scotland's colleges and universities play a key role in supporting the future careers and prosperity of our young people and our economy, and we will work in partnership with the sector to support and contribute to the development and success of the Young Person's Guarantee.

  • In 2020/21, £10 million in funding was provided to colleges, to enable them to deliver shorter industry-focused opportunities for young people, including skills boost and fast track courses, to meet the needs of employers and support economic recovery.
  • The college sector across Scotland engaged around 4,000 students on shorter industry-focused opportunities such as skills boost and fast track courses in 2020/21.
  • A further £10 million will be provided to colleges, to continue delivering shorter industry focused opportunities in 2021/22, with a target of engaging 5,000 students across Scotland.
  • An additional £3.5 million has been allocated to support recent graduates, with a target of supporting 500 individuals through providing a range of options to support their career development.

As we continue to take a more blended approach to learning, we are mindful that the cost of accessing and participating in online learning may not be affordable for all learners. We have committed £5 million per year to tackle student digital poverty and support those from less well-off backgrounds access devices and connectivity. This funding is to help learners facing hardship offset the equipment costs associated with accessing community, college and university learning delivered online. Through these monies we want to make sure young people facing hardship have access to the equipment they need to commence and continue their studies.

The National Transitional Training Fund (NTTF) was established in October 2020, as a key intervention to mitigate the projected rise in unemployment resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and was positioned to help fill a gap in how we supported individuals, aged 25+, who had lost their job or whose jobs were at risk as a result of the pandemic. In year one of the programme the NTTF supported individuals in sectors impacted by the pandemic, such as tourism and hospitality, and in growth sectors such as aerospace and forestry.

Ongoing support for the NTTF was announced as part of the 2021/22 Scottish Budget. The continuation of NTTF in 2021/22 will have a broader role, recognising the multiple challenges facing the labour market as a result of the pandemic, EU Exit and future economic transformations including to net zero. In June 2021 SG announced the first tranche of up to £20 million will be allocated to support 25 projects across a range of sectors, and offer specific support for individuals through enhanced online learning and further and higher education provision.

Community Learning and Development (CLD) services have played a key role in supporting young people and families throughout the pandemic. CLD activities are targeted at those who need to most support due to inequality. We know that the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities and impacted most profoundly on those who experience poorer outcomes. The pandemic has seen CLD providers demonstrate agility and flexibility in finding ways to keep in touch with their learners and maintain services.

  • Education Scotland and Scottish Government Equity Audit highlighted how CLD services have worked in partnership to support learning for those families with identified needs, and Education Scotland's What Scotland Learned - 100 Stories of Lockdown report outlined numerous examples of CLD-school partnerships which supported and enhanced the lockdown learning experience for families and young people across Scotland.
  • YouthLink Scotland's Learning Though Lockdown report demonstrated how youth workers continued to engage with young people throughout lockdown, providing crisis support for the most vulnerable families and mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on children and young people's mental health, learning and development.
  • Adult learning, adult literacies, and family learning also continued in many places across Scotland, with an emphasis on supporting parents and families with learning at home, as well as addressing social isolation and health and wellbeing.
  • Many English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) practitioners in the CLD sector quickly adapted to deliver services differently during lockdown.  This included collaborating with teachers to support parental use of Glow or online teaching platforms, as well as providing ongoing support with written information issued by schools.
  • To support remote and digital learning, the SG delivered in partnership with YouthLink Scotland, Lead Scotland and the Workers Educational Association a targeted investment of £0.25 million in digital devices, connectivity and adaptive equipment for community based learners allowed digitally excluded learners to continue their learning, supported by CLD workers, and an additional £3 million in youth work for education recovery.

Developing the Young Workforce

The Scottish Government is committed to supporting all young people to achieve their potential, and we have a strong track record of tackling youth unemployment through the Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) programme.

However, we recognise the new challenges young people may face as they transition into the labour market. Therefore, we are continuing to strengthen the partnerships within the education and skills system post COVID-19, in order to sustain and build on our current progress. For example, we are continuing to build on the success of our employer-Led DYW programme to support the implementation of the Young Person's Guarantee as per recommendations from the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery.

As part of the Young Person's Guarantee, we have invested an additional £10m in the DYW Regional Group infrastructure - primarily to place a dedicated DYW School Coordinator into each high school in Scotland. The DYW Employers' Forum have long called for this additional investment that will support young people prepare for the world of work by enhancing employer-education partnerships and provide a more focused resource to support the needs of each school and the local economy. We continue to fund third sector organisations who directly support young people most at risk of being furthest from the labour market.

We have enhanced the DYW digital offering and continue to work with partners to provide a national system that supports employer-education across the country. This build on the success of E-DYW, established as a direct of the impact of COVID-19 on the work of the network, which we will work to enhance and drive alignment to other offerings.

Young Person's Guarantee

The Young Person's Guarantee has already created around 18,000 opportunities for people aged between 16 and 24 to help them into work, education or training. It aims to give all young people the chance to succeed despite the economic impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19) while also ensuring employers continue to benefit from the fresh talent and new perspectives that young people bring to workplaces across Scotland.

We have created around 18,000 opportunities for young people from the £60m committed to support implementation of the Guarantee in 2020/21. A further £70m has been committed for 2021/22.

Employer engagement is at the heart of the Young Peron's Guarantee to garner support for young people, particularly support through transitions. This work is supported by the 5 Employer Asks that encourage employers to take a holistic approach to their work with young people.

We recognise the critical role that the Careers service plays in advising young people in their next steps and welcome the Review of this service led by Grahame Smith. There will be a particular focus on those who face the greatest challenges in their journey through education and into rewarding and sustainable careers. The scope of the review also includes looking at the provision of career advice to young people in higher and further education. The Review will be published by the end of the year.

Foundation Apprenticeships

Through Developing the Young Workforce and Young Person's Guarantee, we want to see increasing numbers of young people taking up apprenticeship opportunities.

Foundation Apprenticeships support the Guarantee by creating more opportunities for young people to move on to positive destinations through apprenticeships, further learning or other jobs post-school.

These opportunities provide young people with lifelong adaptable skills, which in addition to having value in themselves with regards to personal development, respond to changing economic and employer demands, playing a crucial role in supporting young people in gaining the required occupational skills and qualifications to meet longer-term economic priorities.

It is vital that young people from a range of backgrounds and abilities experience work-based learning to give our economy a rich and diverse pool of work-ready talent to help the nation recover and thrive.

Next Steps

In addition to the work set out above, we will take the following key next steps to support positive destinations for young people and to recover from the impacts of COVID-19:

(1) We are on course to provide over 80 additional counsellors in Further and Higher Education by 2022, as set out in Programme for Government 2018. The additional resource will enable institutions to access additional counselling services for students.

(2) We will develop with stakeholders a Student Mental Health Action Plan which brings together our commitments on counsellors and equity of access for college students and support for the NUS Scotland Think Positive initiative.

(3) We are taking forward arrangements in relation to the future direction of Equally Safe in colleges and universities, and look forward to further working with the sector on this in 2021 and beyond.

(3) Given the significant growth of Foundation Apprenticeship and to ensure continued best outcomes for young people, the Scottish Government commissioned HM Inspectors of Education (HMIE) to undertake a review of the delivery of FA programmes. Engagement activity required for Phase 2 commenced in February 2021 and is complete. Phase 3 was paused in response to COVID-19, and will recommence in due course.

(4) To continue to support CLD learners and the CLD workforce as we recover from the pandemic, SG will:

  • Invest £0.5 million in the workforce to support capacity to deliver digital learning.
  • Review the Requirements for Community Learning and Development (Scotland) Regulations 2013, to determine the impact of these regulations on budget decision making, and in doing so, seek to safeguard investment in CLD services.
  • Continue work, which paused during COVID-19, to develop a youth work strategy and an adult learning strategy for Scotland.

(5) Produce a full response to the SFC Review of Coherent Provision and Sustainability. The outputs of the review, published on 29 June 2021, will form an important part of our thinking on the future strategy for tertiary education and university research in Scotland, as we look to our Colleges and Universities to be at the heart of recovery.



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