Developing young workforce strategy - impact on education: evaluation

An independent evaluation of the impact of Developing the Young Workforce Strategy on education.

2. Findings: The status of DYW and work-based learning in schools


This chapter explores the activities that schools have undertaken to implement DYW, the impact of COVID-19 on work-based learning in schools, and how far DYW has enhanced the status of work-based learning in schools.

Overview of schools' work to implement DYW

Schools that took part in the research described delivering a wide range of activities aligned to DYW. While there was variation in the activities, they are summarised under categories that have emerged from the analysis of the data collected through this research: curricular activity; extra-curricular projects; careers-focused events; work experience placements; workplace visits/tasters; one-to-one support; and collation and dissemination of work-based learning opportunities and job vacancies.

Curricular activity and design

Many secondary schools reported providing timetabled classes focused on the world of work. These include discussion of different career options and the skills and qualifications required, as well as CV development, interview preparation and support with college or university applications. The approach to this varies among schools but, for example, one school includes one period a week in S1 and S2, another is planning DYW-focused teaching time for S3s in 2022-23, and a third includes one period a week for senior pupils.

Some interviewees described adopting DYW principles into their school's curriculum development process and this has resulted in a more diverse range of options in the Senior Phase. One high school, for example, has introduced a focus on skills for life, learning and work through the provision of National 5 qualifications in early learning and childcare and National Progression Awards in horticulture and exercise and fitness leadership. Another described tailoring the curriculum to the needs of individual pupils, ensuring they can access work experience, placements and/or qualifications relevant to their aspirations. Similarly, there is an example of a school using its on-site growing space and professional kitchen to enhance the hospitality qualifications offered.

In addition, primary and secondary schools encourage class teachers to emphasise the relevance of skills and knowledge gained through classroom learning to the world of work. Examples include activities to demonstrate the link between home economics and the hospitality industry, and a 'stock market challenge' in maths. Some reported using the 'I Can' statements from the Career Education Standard 3-18 to help pupils understand the relevance of their class activities to the skills they will need in employment.

Links with colleges are another important consideration. There were many examples where pupils attend college during school time to work towards vocational qualifications in subjects such as STEM, hair and beauty, mechanics, construction, engineering and health and social care.

Many interviewees mentioned the value of Foundation Apprenticeships for S5 and S6 pupils. They described these as an important option in combining work-based and academic learning, especially for young people with a vocational focus. Some interviewees reported that demand for these opportunities was increasing among young people, especially those who wanted to progress to employment after school. Examples of Foundation Apprenticeships mentioned by interviewees included nursing, IT, business, media, childcare, health and social care, hospitality and maritime studies. It is worth noting that vocational courses such as these offer approaches to assessment and learning similar to further and higher education.

Extra-curricular projects

Some schools gave examples of extra-curricular projects that pupils take part in to learn about the world of work. Examples included enterprise-based projects, such as one school where S1 pupils designed and made a product before selling it at a school fair. Another school gave an example of a successful partnership with a large engineering firm, whereby S2 and S5 pupils undertake their own engineering project, supported by an engineer from the firm. This also involved opportunities to visit the firm's offices and speak to staff to gain insight into working in that sector.

Other examples include opportunities for young people to gain skills through programmes such as Micro-Tyco entrepreneurial training, the Youth Philanthropy Initiative, Scotland's Enterprising Schools, Social Enterprise Academy, Young Enterprise Scotland and Fairtrade.

Careers-focused events

Schools described a range of events to raise young people's awareness of the different careers options open to them. These include large annual careers fairs with representation from employers, universities and colleges. Some schools also reported running more frequent events with a focus on DYW, including 'business breakfasts', 'business afternoons' and 'Future Fridays' involving speakers from different employers, as well as links with the Founders4Schools programme where business leaders speak to pupils. There were also examples of one-off or ad hoc events where employers visited schools to deliver presentations to pupils.

Work experience and placements

Schools reported that work experience and placements are an important component of work-based learning. Work experience is the more traditional model where senior pupils attend a workplace for one week of experience. Longer-term opportunities, known as work placements, are also available at many schools. Interviewees reported these are becoming more popular, and can offer more meaningful and valuable experiences for young people.

"We've got a group of kids who are in S3 at the moment… they are out working one afternoon a week with the park rangers. We also have links with community gardens… we've got a group of young people out working with them. What we're trying to do probably for next year is link those experiences with the Personal Development Award. So as we can get some accreditation around what they're doing and the work that they're doing in the classroom will link with the work placements that they're doing out there." (Guidance Teacher, urban secondary school)

Foundation Apprenticeships are an example where work placements are aligned with meaningful curriculum experiences. Other examples of work placements include a school that offers six periods per week of work experience as an option in S5 and S6, and a different school that has a partnership with a law firm whereby pupils work there every afternoon for a six to eight week programme, with the opportunity to 'win' a week's work experience during the summer holidays. In another school, S3 pupils work with local park rangers one afternoon per week, and there are plans for pupils to gain accreditation for this through Personal Development Awards.

There were also examples where pupils can gain work experience at school. One, for instance, reported that S6 pupils have the opportunity to work in a community café in the school, while another said there is a hair salon in the school where pupils can gain experience and take part in training.

Workplace tasters/visits

Some interviewees reported offering brief taster visits to workplaces for young people. Examples include enabling pupils to visit workplaces such as fire stations, pizza restaurants, wind farms and hydropower schemes.

One-to-one support

Individualised pupil support from school staff and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) Careers Advisors were described. These involve working closely with young people on a one-to-one basis to help them identify their career aspirations and plan the qualifications and experience required to achieve their objectives.

A few interviewees gave examples of one-to-one mentoring opportunities. For instance, in one school a teacher meets with pupils applying for college and apprenticeships to review their options and help with their applications. Another school links Senior Phase young people with mentors from local businesses who discuss career options with them and provide support such as mock interviews.

Collation and dissemination of work-based learning opportunities and job vacancies

School staff advertise opportunities via online and physical noticeboards and email bulletins. Interviewees explained that schools receive a large volume of information about different opportunities, and that it is helpful for a member of staff to select the information that is relevant and likely to be interesting to young people, before making it easily accessible for young people online and/or in physical form.

Differences between Broad General Education and Senior Phase

BGE is the phase of learning which lasts from when a child begins early learning and childcare through to the end of S3 in secondary school before moving on to the Senior Phase of the curriculum in S4 to S6. Interviewees reflected on the differences in approaches to delivering DYW at the BGE and Senior Phases of the curriculum.

Broad general education

The consensus was that the focus of DYW in BGE is on raising awareness of different job roles and the skills and qualifications they require. Activities typically include career fairs, employer presentations and school trips, which aim to help learners make connections between school activities and the world of work.

Interviewees from primary schools reported that DYW activities are an important consideration for P7 pupils, most notably annual events where speakers from different employers deliver presentations. However, they stressed that DYW is a consideration with all year groups. The curriculum from P1 includes coverage of skills for work through role play and discussion of different roles in the community, sometimes including speakers from local employers.

"The priorities in our infant classes are literacy and numeracy… but I think the role play… [and] the people who help us topics feed into developing the young workforce… It's more discreet, because the priorities are slightly different." (Principal Teacher, urban primary school)

In S1, S2 and S3, several interviewees reported that their school provides timetabled DYW classes for pupils. These classes build on the work undertaken in primary schools by further raising awareness of different career opportunities and the skills they involve. Some interviewees said their school works intensively with S3 pupils to identify their career interests and ensure their course choices for S4 align with these.

"The way that we envisage it is that we will lay the foundations in the BGE phase… We're not asking you to pick a career at the BGE phase, but what are you good at and what are your interests, then hopefully that informs better subject choices." (Guidance Teacher, urban secondary school)

Senior phase

Interviewees explained that DYW activity becomes more focused in the Senior Phase. By this time, young people are more likely to have identified career options they want to pursue so more personalised support is delivered to help achieve their aims. This includes efforts to identify and access appropriate work experience and qualifications, such as support with university and college applications, as well as assistance with CV development and interview preparation. A few interviewees emphasised that the support is tailored to the pathways that individual young people are pursuing, whether that is further or higher education, an apprenticeship, or employment.

"As young people go into the Senior Phase, then we're starting to focus more thoroughly on exit points and preparation. So the types of events begin to change, we know our likely pathway for young people then so it's about helping them build confidence around accessing that pathway." (Head Teacher, rural secondary school)

Impact of COVID-19 on work-based learning

School staff often described the impact of COVID-19 on work-based learning in negative terms. Many activities could not take place, and there was less time to devote to DYW. However digital approaches allowed some schools to continue aspects of DYW activities during the pandemic, and the outlook improved in the 2021-22 academic year with more progress expected in 2022-23 as Scotland recovers from the pandemic.

Impact of COVID-19 on DYW activities

Activities that are key to implementing DYW such as work experience placements, employer presentations and careers fairs were affected by COVID-19. In a few cases (discussed below) these activities were pivoted to online delivery but, for the most part, they paused during the pandemic.

Interviewees reported that opportunities for work experience and placements have reduced since the pandemic. This is reinforced by evidence from the Scottish Employer Perspectives Survey, which found that the proportion of employers providing work placements for young people at school over the previous 12 months reduced from 20% in 2019 to 8% in 2021. Similarly, the survey found that, in 2021, 8% of employers engaged with educational institutions over the previous 12 months to provide 'work inspiration' activities such as site visits or talking to pupils about careers, compared with 15% in 2019.

A common theme was disappointment at being unable to offer young people work experience or placement opportunities, as interviewees felt that these are important in helping pupils to develop work-based skills.

"We would always take great pride in sending our Senior Phase students out on work experience. But unfortunately, work experience was put on hold because of Covid." (Principal Teacher, urban secondary school)

"[Work experience] has been really missed, that's been a big, big blow for the school because the kids get a lot out of work experience." (Deputy Head Teacher, urban secondary school)

Restrictions on the time available to implement DYW during COVID-19

Interviewees explained that their priority during the pandemic was to adapt to remote learning and to support young people's well-being through the pandemic. This affected the time and opportunity to deliver work-based learning. Some interviewees noted that the pandemic meant that their school's DYW plans and activities "fell by the wayside".

"[Work-based learning] has not perhaps been the focus when staff have been doing remote learning and things like that, it's more been a focus on getting through the qualifications and from a wellbeing point of view… a lot of our focus during that time was checking in with pupils and making sure that they were all okay." (DYW Co-ordinator, urban secondary school)

Adapting to COVID-19

Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, there are examples of schools adapting to ensure that some DYW activities continued during the pandemic.

Digital delivery of became an important feature of DYW for schools. They shared examples of employers providing online presentations for young people. These were either live, which had the benefit of allowing interaction with and questions from the young people, or pre-recorded. One secondary school reported successfully delivering a careers convention online, with input from multiple employers and higher and further education providers. The importance of online resources available on DYW Live was mentioned by some, and a small number described accessing virtual workplace tours. One school reported making videos with careers information and posting these on its own YouTube channel. Another reported delivering digital training for pupils and parents to help them engage with these opportunities. While there was recognition that online events were not as effective as in-person activities, they were beneficial in allowing some work-based learning to take place during the pandemic.

"We had to run the careers convention as an online event. That was really difficult... I felt for what we were able to do it was a success… It just didn't have that same one-to-one discussion, it didn't have that same informal chat." (Principal Teacher, urban secondary school)

While most interviewees said that work experience opportunities were paused during the pandemic, one described online placements provided by a bank, demonstrating that this way of accessing experience is a possibility. A few others said that a handful of pupils were able to arrange work experience via personal contacts.

"The flip side of that has been that pupils have had access to really high quality work experience opportunities online." (Pastoral Support Teacher, urban secondary school)

Recovering from COVID-19

Interviewees reported improvements over the 2021-22 academic year with more progress expected in 2022-23 as schools and employers recover from the pandemic.

Many interviewees said that their focus now is on re-establishing links with employers they worked with before the pandemic, and/or creating new links with other organisations. Some reported challenges, including instances where employers they worked with pre-pandemic have gone out of business or no longer have the capacity to engage with DYW, but overall interviewees expressed optimism that 2022-23 will see a return to normality in terms of DYW, work-based learning and access to work experience, employer presentations and career-focused events and activities.

"The link with employers I would say that over the last kind of year or so did take a dip. However, we're building that back." (Depute Head Teacher, urban secondary school)

Digital delivery post-COVID-19

Some interviewees reported that a positive impact of the pandemic is improved familiarity with and skills in engaging with digital forms of delivery among pupils and parents. This has enabled the continued delivery of some online events and activities after the pandemic. This appears to be part of a wider mover towards the use of digital platforms in education through initiatives such as the Excelerate Learning Hub.

"One of the silver linings of lockdown was that pupils have become more familiar with working in Microsoft Teams. What we do each week is those opportunities arise, for DYW particularly on a Friday afternoon, we put a Microsoft form out to pupils. So there's no real barrier to anyone at that point to then click in and say, well, I want to do the mechanics, I want to do the driving school, I want to hear from finance, I want to go to the Glasgow Uni and metacognition session, to whatever it may be to get that open access, really to buy into the opportunities." (Head Teacher, urban secondary school)

Impact of DYW on the status of work-based learning in schools.

Schools that took part in our research all reported strong commitment to implementing DYW. However, the extent to which DYW and work-based learning opportunities have been embedded varied across the schools. This section explores the impact of DYW on the status of work-based learning in schools' curriculums and on views of work-based learning among education professionals, young people and parents.

Prioritisation of work-based learning

Our research has shown that DYW has had a largely positive impact on the status of work-based learning in schools. The consensus among interviewees was that DYW has raised awareness of work-based learning and the benefits of this approach in schools. As a result, work-based learning has increased in priority and is more likely to be viewed as having an equal status with more academic learning. Nearly four-fifths of survey respondents (79%) reported that DYW and work-based learning is a priority in their school.

"It's equal status within the school." (Deputy Head Teacher, rural secondary school)

"It is a huge focus in our school, because the vision of our school is ambition for our young people, so that life after school for them is equally meaningful as their education."(Depute Head Teacher, urban ASN school)

Impact on curriculum design

As noted earlier in this chapter, schools have delivered a wide range of activities to implement DYW, including embedding work-based learning in specific classes in the timetable, as well as encouraging class teachers to make the link between their subject and the world of work.

A green doughnut chart showing that 29% of respondents agreed to a large extent that their school had integrated the principles of DYW into the cirriculum. 
A pink doughnut chart showing 43% of respondents agreed to a moderate extent that their school had integrated the principles of DYW into the cirriculum. 
A blue doughnut chart showing 25% of respondents agreed to a small extent that their school had integrated the principles of DYW into the cirriculum.

"DYW influence is in every aspect of the curriculum." (Head Teacher, rural secondary school)

"I think schools see DYW as part of their business." (Stakeholder)

Survey respondents and interviewees reported that schools now offer more work-based learning opportunities as a result of DYW. Nine out of 10 survey respondents (90%) agreed that DYW has increased the range of opportunities available to pupils, with over one quarter (27%) strongly agreeing.

Many interviewees said there is now more focus on supporting young people to identify the most appropriate pathways for them based on their aspirations, interests and strengths, with a recognition that traditional academic learning and progression to university is not the best option for everyone.

"I think you're seeing a lot of kids coming through that are not as academic. Before, we didn't really have that much choice for them, but now we've got a good choice." (Pupil Support Worker, urban secondary school)

"We support a wealth of different opportunities. So if a young person is wanting to go to university, we've got the curriculum there for them. If a young person is wanting to go into the workplace, we've got supports there for that young person as well." (Head Teacher, urban secondary school)

However, some felt there is still work to be done in some schools to further embed DYW. A quarter (25%) of survey respondents reported that the principles of DYW have been embedded in the curriculum only to some extent, while 2% said it had not been integrated at all. One fifth (21%) said that DYW and work-based learning was a priority in their school only to some extent. Some interviewees agreed: in particular, a few felt that, while good progress has been made in primary and secondary schools, the focus for future development should be primary schools.

"DYW is very well embedded in our secondary school architecture [but] I think we probably still have a job to do in our primary schools… I think we've been very good at doing the 15 to 18 bit, we need to really start drilling down to the earlier years." (Stakeholder)

"I would be lying if I didn't say that a lot of efforts have been focused on the Senior Phase and the latter stages of the Broad General Education." (Stakeholder)

Views of work-based learning among education professionals

Overall, DYW appears to have resulted in improved awareness of the importance of work-based learning among education professionals. Almost three quarters of survey respondents (73%) reported that DYW has positively impacted views of work-based learning among staff. Many interviewees confirmed this, and gave several examples of teachers demonstrating increased understanding that education is not just about getting the highest possible exam results; rather, it is about preparing young people for a positive destination after school, whether that is work or further or higher education.

"I think what it has brought has been a sharp focus on ensuring young people are in a good place beyond school. I think that's the key thing." (Head Teacher, rural secondary school)

High levels of support among teachers for DYW were described. Survey respondents were generally positive: 24% felt there is whole school buy-in to DYW and work-based learning to a large extent and 46% to a moderate extent. Interviewees also gave examples where school staff supported DYW.

"They're all very supportive, on board with DYW… I've not come across any challenges within the school in terms of resistance towards it. It's been very supported and welcomed in the school." (Principal Teacher, urban secondary school)

"There definitely is whole school buy-in and we have had whole school meetings whereby we've picked certain areas of DYW that we've looked for a focus on… Every department, as part of the team improvement plan, have to have lessons which link in to the context of work and skills." (Deputy Head Teacher, rural secondary school)

To demonstrate this, some interviewees gave examples where class teachers link learning with the world of work.

"I think it is certainly different now… The staff are able to make those connections with what the children are learning about… They're able to see that and support the children in understanding what they're doing." (Depute Head Teacher, urban primary school)

"I can only speak with confidence about my own subject area, however I am constantly referring to potential careers and linking the creative skills taught in the classroom to the real world." (Class Teacher, urban secondary school)

Another theme was the value of DYW in providing schools with the tools, structure and impetus for staff to promote work-based learning in a consistent way.

"I think it's the whole aspect of building the routines and structures: everybody's then singing from the same hymn sheet." (Principal Teacher, primary school)

"School staff can no longer just go into their bubble and teach their subjects and close the door, they've got to look at skills development, they've got to look at the outside world and the world of work." (Head Teacher, urban secondary school)

However, while most interviewees were positive about the extent to which staff had engaged with work-based learning, there is variation across schools and between individual teachers within schools: some staff have not been so supportive. Among survey respondents, 27% reported that there had been whole-school buy-in only to some extent, and 3% not at all.

While there are good examples of class teachers ensuring that the learning they provied connect with the world of work, some interviewees felt that more needs to be done. Survey responses provide further evidence of this:

Geen doughnut chart with darker green area shaded 41%. Accompanying text reads: with 41% feeling that teachers have built DYW into day-to-day learning only to a small extent.
Blue doughnut chart with darker blue area shaded 23%. Accompanying text reads: and 23% reporting that learning in schools relates to the world outside school to a small extent.

"I would say [buy-in] maybe differs from teacher to teacher... I think a lot of people tend to think, well, that's not my job to get involved in that… Why should I be bothering about DYW and how it integrates into the school?" (Principal Teacher, urban secondary school)

Some interviewees described scope to further enable and encourage teachers to embrace work-based learning. Time was identified as a key challenge, with a suggestion that teachers need allocated time to incorporate work-based learning in their lessons. There was also recognition that some teachers may need support to reinforce a recognition that going straight into work from school, rather than progressing to higher education, can be a positive outcome. These issues are explored further in Chapter 3.

"It is challenging to fully integrate DYW into all subjects at all time as we are regularly working within the constraints of the curriculum and covering the material relevant for national exams." (Class Teacher, urban secondary school)

Views of work-based learning among young people

A general theme in comments across interviews with and survey responses from school staff was that DYW has helped to enhance the status of work-based learning among young people. Almost all (92%) of survey respondents reported this, and many interviewees observed that work-based learning opportunities are perceived more positively among young people.

"I think definitely the overall impression and understanding of what these types of courses are offering has definitely improved; it's not seen as being an easy option, it's not even seen really as being a less academic option, it's just seen as being an alternative." (Principal Teacher, urban secondary school)

An enhanced focus on work-based learning was identified by some interviewees, who suggested it has helped young people to identify a positive pathway. Some emphasised this was particularly beneficial for pupils who are not performing well in traditional academic subjects. This has resulted in heightened aspirations and confidence among those young people.

"It's also given a focus to the kids, and got them thinking about the future." (Depute Head Teacher, urban ASN school)

"With our young people, I think we've managed to raise aspirations there." (Head Teacher, urban secondary school)

Some interviewees reported improved engagement and behaviour among young people because DYW has helped to enhance their aspirations and identify a suitable pathway.

"DYW is a hook that can get everyone engaged… It's a good place to start to talk about skills and give them more opportunities." (Class Teacher, urban primary school)

"We get a lot better behaviour because young people are feeling better about themselves and more motivated." (Principal Teacher, urban secondary school)

Although the overall consensus was of enhanced status for work-based learning among young people, some interviewees gave examples of negative perceptions among pupils. A few felt that some young people still view work-based or vocational courses as of lower status than more traditional subjects.

"We still need to do a lot of work with some young people to trust that and to have enough of them to make those courses viable, because our staffing is finite. I can fill a higher biology class three times over, but I might have six pupils that want to do a lab skills equivalent course." (Head Teacher, rural secondary school)

Views of work-based learning among parents

An enhanced status of work-based learning among parents was described by school staff. Almost two thirds (65%) of school staff who responded to our survey reported that DYW has positively impacted views of work-based learning among parents. School staff gave examples in interviews where parents are now more likely to appreciate the merit of work-based learning, whereas before they placed more value on traditional academic learning.

"Because we're catering for the range of young people in terms of experiences that they can have in school, I would say that the parents are supportive of that, and definitely our parents realise that there is a wealth of opportunities out there for young people." (Head Teacher, urban secondary school)

However, there are still negative views or misunderstandings associated with work-based learning among some parents. Interviewees reported instances where parents are keen for their children to focus on traditional academic learning with the aim of progressing to university, and do not always see the value of work-based learning opportunities. A few suggested this attitude is more pronounced in more affluent areas where historically a higher proportion of young people have attended higher education.

"Some parents will still very much hold that view of five highers, straight to university." (Careers Advisor, urban secondary school)

"We're a pretty middle class area, so many, if not most, of our parents are professional people whose frame of reference is you get your highers and you move on." (Head Teacher, rural secondary school)

Examples of good practice

Throughout interviews, respondents identified examples of good practice, a selection of which are described in the quotes on the next page.

Examples of good practice

Throughout interviews, respondents identified examples of good practice, a selection of which are described in the quotes below.

"Our foundation apprenticeships have been growing over the last two years. We like the fact that the foundation apprenticeships come with a placement. So that's very hands on. We have had two very successful cohorts of children and young people and also health and social care. They are run with local placements. The pupils are in local nurseries, our local early years providers, as their placement and that is definitely a big draw for the pupils that they get the hands on experience. Health and social care has been really successful and the authority have put on a very good one day course for those pupils, especially during lockdown and during recovery from COVID, where the pupils have gained an insight into how a practice nurse works, how a consultant works, how a GP works, that kind of thing. Some have been online obviously for obvious reasons during recovery. They've both been really successful and they are at level six."

DYW lead, urban secondary school

"For example, with 3rd years when they were studying business, we look at interlinking them with P7 pupils, because P7 pupils looking at career areas, what they might be interested in as a career, how S3's are doing business studies, how are they doing in particular recruitment and selection as part of HR. So the P7's have to apply for jobs, and our S3's do the interview for them through an interview process, as if it was to apply for a real job."

Class Teacher, rural Secondary School

So we have these datahub meetings once a month, which I think is a really good way of making sure no one's slipping through the net. And the people who need to discuss in the young person's needs are there rather than having to like, you know, email so and so. So that's been running in East Renfrewshire now for about six years. So it was on kind of just before we had our Education Scotland review that was identified as good practice, this can be spread out throughout the whole

Careers Advisor, urban Secondary School

Every school now has Future Fridays on a Friday afternoon... it's a brilliant chance, because they've got a Friday afternoon, where they don't have classes, they don't have timetable classes, they, you know, as an opt in on Friday, so it's a brilliant chance to get work experience and get them involved with local businesses and get them developing skills that they would need and given them those career opportunities."

Principal Teacher, urban Secondary School

"We have a wonderful tutor who comes in... they've got a salon in the building. So she's got her own hairdressing and beauty salon in the local community. So she comes in most mornings, young people will come from all across they work on cosmetology or National 4 hairdressing but also there is a barber unit as well. So she also works on delivering some barbering, and she also takes into her own salon as well, our Salon Services to buy products. So they get product awareness ticked off in terms of their qualification as well. So she is an exceptionally good sort of model of good practice."

Depute Head Teacher, urban ASN School



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