─ By Alan Mackie, Research Associate, University of Edinburgh, UK

Thursday 28th February saw the Edinburgh team conduct our national dissemination event, primarily based on the findings from our Scottish research undertaken as part of WP2.

Prof Sheila Riddell is chairing the event.
Prof Riddell chairing the event.

It was well attended, with a variety of participants from academia, practitioners and policy-makers from the field as well as a group of young people from the Scottish Youth Parliament. This provided an excellent range of experience and expertise on which to reflect on the presentations.

Dr Ellen Boeren giving an introduction to the project
Dr Boeren giving an introduction to the project

The first of these came from Ellen Boeren as she introduced the wider ENLIVEN project and its international comparative nature.

The second presentation was given by Alan Mackie, outlining the main findings from our Scottish study. The main themes that emerged from our research concerned the barriers that the young people on these programmes have endured (and continue to endure). These include:

Alan Mackie, Research Associate of the Edinburgh team, is presenting our research findings on post-school education and training for young people on the social margins
Alan Mackie is presenting our research findings
  • Poverty
  • Mental health issues: Stress, Anxiety, Depression
  • Poor school experiences (including bullying and in two cases, sexual assault)
  • Poor qualifications
  • Caring responsibilities
  • Travelling barriers: Cost, Travel anxiety
  • Challenging home life
  • Limited job opportunities
  • Criminal record
  • Drug and alcohol issues

Alan also discussed; the challenges practitioners face in their roles working with these young people; the benefits of participation for the young people; issues to do with a focus on ‘hard outcomes’ at the expense of the wider journey the young people on these programmes make; and the challenges young people living in rural environments face in terms of accessing employability provision. For further information on the findings of our Scottish research, you can refer to the policy briefing we have produced here.

Our first speaker, Karen Brown, Activity Agreement Implementation Officer from the East Lothian Council.
Karen Brown, Activity Agreement Implementation Officer from the East Lothian Council.

A critical reflection to our work from a practitioner’s perspective was given by Karen Brown, Activity Agreement implementation officer in Haddington, East Lothian – one of the two sites where our research took place. Karen introduced the work that they do to re-engage young people into education, employment or training, including the barriers they have to overcome. Their Activity Agreement programme is centred on the interests of the young people as they work with them to build their confidence and prepare them to move on to employability programmes, further training or directly into employment.

The final presentation was given by Chris Costello, deputy convener of the Education Committee at the Scottish Youth Parliament. Amongst many other things, Chris outlined the work that they doing to highlight the benefits and value of non-university educational pathways amongst young people. This has been an ongoing project for the committee and something they have been seeking to highlight on Twitter through their #NoWrongPath hashtag.

Chris Costello MSYP
Chris Costello MSYP speaking at our dissemination event.

We had a very productive and lively discussion reflecting upon and extending on the topics highlighted in the presentation. Discussion included:

  • The increased focus in Scotland on the ‘ACEs’ approach.
  • That even more focus is required in terms of early intervention.
  • More support and provision is required for parents struggling with the impact of poverty.
  • That working-class young people are seen through an ‘academic’ lens in education and not enough credence is given to alternative strengths.
  • More needs to be done to support employers to take on young people on the labour market periphery.
  • Education and employability work can only do so much, inevitably the primary issues these young people face are rooted in problems with wider society.

We want to thank everyone who came along, the contributions were extremely valuable and interesting.  Please feel free to offer your own thoughts on the issues discussed in the comments box below.

We would like to thank everyone who came along and particular thanks to Karen and Chris for their valuable contributions to the session.