Foreword by Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning
Curriculum for Excellence is our framework for learning for all young people, aged 3-18, across the whole spectrum of learning providers - school, colleges, private and third sector organisations. It is predicated on helping young people acquire the four capacities - successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens - that form the basis of one of our national outcomes. Building the Curriculum 3, published in June this year, sets out a number of entitlements for young people: these include an entitlement to a senior phase of learning where the young person can continue to develop the four capacities and also obtain qualifications.
Those young people who do not stay in school in S5 and S6 face considerably more complex pathways and support arrangements in their post-16 learning. The OECD report, Quality and Equity of Schooling in Scotland1, identified continuing issues of inequality in Scottish education, particularly for those young people from lower-income families. Successful implementation of Curriculum for Excellence - and progress towards the national outcome - demands action to improve support for these young people. Local authorities, through their Single Outcome Agreements, have all made a firm commitment toward this.
16+ Learning Choices is our new model for planning for the senior phase of Curriculum for Excellence. It brings a particular focus on improving outcomes for those young people who do not stay in school for S5 and S6. I expect this model to have a major impact on the national indicator on improving the proportion of young people in positive and sustained destinations post-16.
There are three critical elements to 16+ Learning Choices. First, the learning provision available to young people must be appropriate to their needs; this is largely the responsibility of local authorities and their partners as they implement Curriculum for Excellence. Second, young people need high quality information, advice and guidance to help them choose the right learning option; I expect Skills Development Scotland to have a key role in this. Third, the financial support available to young people must also be accessible and coherent - particularly so that those young people from low-income families do not have their choices limited to the options that offer the most money.
Many young people in Scotland are already well-served by a world-class education system. A system which works for most young people is not good enough; we must work harder to ensure that system supports the most vulnerable young people, with the most chaotic lives. This requires a new focus of our energies - and resources - on those young people for whom school is not the right option post-16.
This means that pathways through learning in a community setting or with a third sector provider must be as clear and as well supported as those for young people who remain in school; it means that learning which might previously have been described as an "alternative" curriculum offer must be considered just as mainstream as Highers are for those young people who remain in school.
To achieve this, we must consider the way learning opportunities in a community or third sector setting are resourced, the way they are promoted to young people, the way success for those young people (and those providers) is measured and the support young people are able to access while they are participating. For all of those considerations, we must question whether young people learning outwith school are treated differently; where this is the case, we must align our systems so that young people are not disadvantaged by choosing the learning option that is right for them.
The first section of this consultation paper therefore considers how we provide that "first step" type of activity to young people in a community or third sector setting. It invites your views on how such activity is commissioned for young people by a variety of public sector agencies, how we can ensure that the learning opportunities involved are appropriately recognised in the context of Curriculum for Excellence and how we ensure that information, advice and guidance for the most vulnerable young people is properly responsive to their needs.
Following on from this, the second section of this consultation paper considers in more detail the financial support that is available to young people. Currently, young people who are in school, or taking a course of further education at college, are able to access the Education Maintenance Allowance ( EMA); young people taking part in Get Ready for Work receive a Minimum Training Allowance ( MTA); and young people who are engaged in "first step" activity in a third sector or community setting do not receive systematic financial support. This consultation paper, for the first time, takes a coherent view of that support and seeks your views on how we can ensure the financial support system supports the vision of Curriculum for Excellence.
The job of Government is about making tough choices, not least about where most effectively - and most fairly - to deploy the inevitably finite funding available. The current fiscal climate makes it even more important that we are deriving the maximum effect from the resource at our disposal.
The changes we need to make to improve support for those young people learning in a community or third sector setting require investment; within the very tight spending review, this means consideration of the resources we already dedicate to young people and how best to employ these. We want to go about that analysis transparently and by taking the views of those with a contribution to make. This consultation provides a basis for a wide discussion on how this can happen, how our existing resources can be used more effectively to support a wider range of opportunities for young people and how we can better target resources at those young people who are most in need of help. I encourage you to respond.
Fiona Hyslop MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning