Developing young workforce strategy - impact on education: evaluation

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

5. Learning points to inform future policy formation


Our research has identified some key learning points that could inform future policy related to preparing young people for work. These are summarised below.

Supporting schools to deliver DYW and work-based learning activities

Schools deliver a wide range of activities to implement DYW, and staff valued the flexibility in DYW policy that allows them to identify activities that suit their local economic and employment context. Some called for more funding to be provided directly to schools to spend on DYW activities, but a few felt school staff have too much autonomy and suggested a need for more centralised planning and guidance.

Learning point 1: An element of flexibility and autonomy for schools is important, but policymakers could explore the value of providing more direction (at a national or local level) in the DYW activities that schools should be offering.

Interviewees also referred to the support and guidance that is already available, including training, mentoring and conferences co-ordinated by their own school, local authorities, SDS and Education Scotland as well as online resources such as My World of Work, DYW Live, Social Enterprise Academy and Twinkl.

Learning point 2: These sources of support are valued and there would appear to be merit in policymakers continuing to make provision for this.

Learning point 3: This research has highlighted a wealth of good practice across all areas of DYW. It would be beneficial to find effective ways to capture, collate and share good practice among schools, potentially using a dedicated website with different formats including written, pictorial and video content.

Learning point 4: In some cases, local authority DYW leads have provided effective mentoring to individual schools. In areas where this does not happen, it may be beneficial to expand the role of the local authority DYW lead to include this.

Learning point 5: There could be an enhanced role for the Regional Improvement Collaboratives in coordinating support for schools and/or acting as a hub for sharing good practice and professional development around DYW.

Status of work-based learning in schools

Most research participants reported that DYW was embedded in their school's curriculum with an increased range of work-based learning opportunities and qualifications available, as well as enhanced awareness among staff of the value of work-based learning and of the importance of supporting young people to identify pathways that suit their individual strengths and aspirations. Staff also reflected on the benefits of building work-based learning into classes across the curriculum. However, some noted that more needs to be done to enable and encourage some teachers to further embrace work-based learning. Barriers to obtaining buy-in from teachers include a lack of time and/or understanding of the value of work-based learning, as well as issues around skills and confidence. The majority of survey respondents, most of whom were teachers or principal teachers, reported other responsibilities (77%) and specifically other curricular priorities (61%) as a barrier to finding time for DYW.

Learning point 6: Schools may benefit from support in encouraging and enabling staff to further embrace work-based learning and implement more vocational or work-based pathways for learners. This could include training for teachers and greater inclusion of the topic in education for student teachers, as well as ensuring that teachers have the time to engage with work-based learning. There was a view among some interviewees that there has been good progress in secondary schools, but room for improvement in primary schools in particular.

Learning point 7: It may be important for schools' senior leadership, who were found to be highly influential in embedding DYW, to further prioritise DYW within the school culture and curriculum and to ensure teachers have capacity within their workload and curricular schedules to attend to DYW.

Research participants identified key facilitators to implementing DYW including support from the local authority (some mentioned regional planning groups and individual officers with DYW responsibility) and the school's senior management team.

Learning point 8: Policymakers could consider activities to, where necessary, enhance understanding of and support for work-related and work-based learning at a local authority level and among schools' senior management teams.

While most interviewees recognised that DYW and work-based learning is relevant to all pupils, some viewed it as more relevant to pupils less suited to traditional academic subjects.

Learning point 9: Policymakers must ensure that school staff are aware that DYW and work-based learning is for all pupils, regardless of academic ability or grades.

Perceptions among young people, parents and the general public

Similarly, there is evidence of a shift in attitudes among young people and parents, with a greater understanding of the value of work-based learning opportunities and an increased interest in taking part in these. However, there were also some examples where young people and parents still view these as of lower value than more traditional subjects.

Learning point 10: It may be beneficial for policymakers to consider activities that could be undertaken to enhance the perception of work-based learning opportunities among young people and parents.

More widely, a common theme was the focus among the media and general public on exam results as a measure of the quality of a school. Interviewees reported this is not helpful when trying to promote work-based learning opportunities.

Learning point 11: Policymakers could consider what policy levers can be utilised to help enhance the value of work-based learning in the eyes of the general public and counteract the perception that the measure of a school's and pupil's success is based on performance in traditional academic subjects and exams.

Co-ordination of DYW at a school level

Some noted the value of appointing a staff lead within the school with responsibility for coordinating a school-wide approach to DYW, although others noted this was not always necessary.

Learning point 12: Policymakers should continue to provide targeted resource for schools to create and sustain roles where a school staff member is given responsibility for co-ordinating DYW in the school.

Partnership working

Another facilitator to success identified by research participants were effective relationships with employers, universities, colleges and other agencies such as SDS.

Learning point 13: There may be a role for policymakers in supporting schools to develop and maintain effective relationships with employers, universities, colleges and other agencies.

Framework for monitoring success

Some interviewees gave examples where there was effective monitoring of pupils' intended and achieved destinations, allowing them to better target and evaluate DYW opportunities. A few mentioned the value of national tools such as SDS' Target Operating Model (TOM) in planning and monitoring DYW activities. In other cases, however, some schools may require support in measuring the effectiveness of DYW activities.

Learning point 14: There may be a need to raise awareness of national tools such as TOM among schools to assist planning and monitoring DYW activities.

Learning point 15: Policymakers could support schools to identify and implement systems for monitoring and evaluating DYW activities.

Information collation and management

Some interviewees reported challenges in processing and disseminating information about the wealth of work-based learning opportunities available. In some cases, schools had appointed a member of staff as DYW coordinator, and part of their role involved collating and disseminating this information. There is an example of this happening at a local authority level in at least one area, but some interviewees suggested a need for a centralised resource to process and disseminate this information.

Learning point 16: Policymakers could consider providing resources for a centralised function, either at a local authority or national level, to identify, collate and disseminate information about work-based learning opportunities to schools.

Geographical challenges

Rural and island schools that took part in our research reported difficulties in forming partnerships with employers due to a lack of local career options, challenges around travel time and transport infrastructure, IT issues, staff shortages and a lack of funding to finance overnight stays for young people to allow them to take part in work experience.

Learning point 17: While the Scottish Government provides funding for rural and island schools to support the implementation of DYW, these schools may require additional support from policymakers to overcome the barriers they face.

Additional support needs

Interviewees from ASN schools described the challenges that their pupils can face to engaging with work-based learning. These include, for example, social, emotional or health issues that mean pupils may need a higher level of support to take part in work-based learning than in the mainstream sector.

Learning point 18: It may be beneficial for policymakers to further engage with ASN schools to ensure staff and pupils are receiving all the support required to deliver DYW.


While some schools and young people were able to adapt to COVID-19 through online work-based learning activities, this was not the case for all.

Learning point 19: Policymakers should support schools, young people and employers to ensure that work-based as well as work-related learning can be delivered online in the event of any future pandemic or public health emergency similar to COVID-19.

Individualised support

The findings of our research indicated that there is value in delivering DYW in an individualised manner, tailoring the support to each young person based on their aspirations rather than their socio-economic background or characteristics.

Learning point 20: This finding suggests that policymakers should promote this approach among schools and ensure that DYW delivery is based on a young person's individual circumstances rather than their socio-economic background.



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