Our survey says: young people set the agenda for the Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee


Do some schools present university as the main path to take when college, training and work are equally valuable routes?

This is just one question the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee will explore in a new inquiry that will also look at whether information about other pathways, such as work and training, is offered in school.

The inquiry topic has been chosen as a result of nearly 900 survey responses from 15-24 year olds. The survey, carried out by the Committee, found that over 60% of young people felt that university was the main focus for schools. In addition, many young people felt that ‘university was prioritised at the expense of other options’. Comments from those who completed the survey suggested a number of them received no information on what options were available after school, and 21% of school leavers taking the survey said they left school not knowing what they wanted to do.

The Committee’s survey also showed that work experience was the most common type of support available at school (69.7%), whereas ‘life skills’ like preparing for an interview was available for less than half of respondents (47.7%).

Now the Committee is examining the advice given to young people in school to ensure that, whichever path they take, information is available. It is also looking at the availability of vocational pathways in the senior phase.

Committee Convener, James Dornan MSP said:

“Deciding what to do when you leave school is one of the most difficult and challenging decisions we ask our young people to take. For many people, their path will be clear, but for others there will be uncertainty about what the future holds. What is crucial is that young people are supported in making these decisions.

“University is just one choice for young people. Our Committee wants to make sure that those choosing work, apprenticeships or college are given the same quality of information about these options to let them pursue the right path for them.

“As a Committee we always want to hear about the practical experiences of children and young people. So basing an inquiry around the views of hundreds of people, during the year of young people, made perfect sense.”

More information about the Committee’s inquiry and a copy of the survey results can be found here.


The Committee’s survey on the experiences and support available to young people received nearly 900 responses and found that university was the most promoted post-school destination.

When asked why they were told more about university, the Committee received responses including:

  • “school was a bit of an exam factory”
  • “It was what the school wanted most people to do so that they would look better in performance tables.”
  • “I believe the school were interested in their school leaver statistics.”
  • “The school wanted good stats of uni leaver to compete with other schools.”

All the comments from young people on the amount of information provided to them at school and the emphasis on one option over another are in annexes B and C of the SPICe analysis of the survey results which can be found here.

The Committee has agreed that the focus for its inquiry should be the progress made towards recommendations on school from the Commission for Developing the Young Workforce, reproduced below:

Senior Phase Vocational Pathways

Recommendation 1: Pathways should start in the senior phase which leads to the delivery of industry recognised vocational qualifications alongside academic qualifications. These pathways should be developed and delivered in partnership with colleges and, where necessary, other training providers. Their delivery should be explicitly measured and published alongside other school performance indicators.

Preparing Young People For The World Of Work

Recommendation 2: A focus on preparing all young people for employment should form a core element of the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence with appropriate resource dedicated to achieve this. In particular local authorities, Skills Development Scotland and employer representative organisations should work together to develop a more comprehensive standard for careers guidance which would reflect the involvement of employers and their role and input.

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