Children and young people put their needs and interests at the heart of the Scottish education system


During the Year of Young People 2018, the Scottish Government worked hard to increase the participation of children and young people in decisions that affect their lives. This included commissioning a project to ensure that the voice of learners was heard in key decisions being made around how education is designed and delivered.

Children in Scotland, Children’s Parliament, Scottish Youth Parliament and Young Scot were commissioned to engage with children and young people and discuss their views and experiences of education. The group formed the 'Scottish Learner Panel' that participated in five workshops from October 2018 – February 2019.

Forty-seven learners aged 3-18-years old from across Scotland took part in the project. This experience gave all partners insight into the experiences of children and young people and the differences and similarities between schools and regions. By attending meetings and engaging with children and young people, stakeholders and policy-makers gave them a real platform – and enabled them to feed their ideas about their futures into policy design and development.

The insights and thinking detailed in the final report capture the work of the Scottish Leaner Panel. This year of work is ensuring that children and young people’s participation is valued in the most meaningful way – by putting their needs and interests at the heart of the Scottish education system. 

Key ‘thinking points’ made up from the Scottish Leaner Panel include:

  • By putting children and young people at the heart of policy design and development, it helps them to better understand their role in society and use their voice meaningfully.

  • Young people and children want more advice and guidance on their subject choices at an earlier age.

  • There’s a need to improve children and young people’s awareness of the initiatives, services and support on offer to support their mental health and wellbeing.

  • Professional learning for school staff should focus on the skills needed to encourage and develop supportive, respectful and impactful relationships between pupils and teachers, support workers and early years practitioners.

  • Life skill learning should be embedded into curriculum development (particularly in secondary schools) alongside with greater recognition of the contribution of extra-curricular activities towards final grades.

Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, said:

“The Scottish Learner Panel is an important step forward in ensuring the experiences of children and young people are formally incorporated into the decision and policy making process.

“I am grateful to all the young people who took part in the first year of the panel for their contribution. I welcome the report’s suggestions on greater opportunities for outdoor learning, more guidance on subject choices at an earlier age, and increased awareness of available support for mental health and wellbeing.

“I expect education leaders across Scotland to take the findings into account as we continue to improve how our system works for every learner.”

Reid Aiton