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Shirley-Anne Somerville wants councils to improve school leaver prospects with support

Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville.
Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville.

Scotland’s education secretary insists there is support in place for school leavers after figures showed the pandemic had hit them hard.

It was recently revealed Aberdeen was the worst local authority area for school leavers going into work or ore education.

According to government figures for 2019/20, 89.5% of those who left schools in the Granite City went onto positive destinations.

In Aberdeenshire, the proportion heading to work, training or education was 93.6%, 91.3% in Highland and 90.9% in Moray. The Scottish average was 92.2%.

Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville.

Figures ‘clearly’ show the struggles of school leavers

Shirley-Anne Somerville said the statistics “clearly” show the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on opportunities for those leaving school.

The education secretary said their £60 million fund –  the Young Person’s Guarantee – is aimed at increasing opportunities for 16- to 24-year-olds.

Companies like ScotRail, Scottish Power and BAE Systems are part of the scheme which was launched in March.

Ms Somerville said it is vital for the government to “recognise” the struggles of young people dealing with Covid fallout.

It is really important for us because we recognise young people have been badly affected often by Covid and we do not want that to be a long term challenge.”

Shirley-Anne Somerville, education secretary

She said: “There clearly has been an impact of Covid given the fact that we are often seeing higher rates of young people going into higher and further education but perhaps a lower amount going into direct employment.

“That is why the government policies around a young person’s guarantee is so important.

“So is to ensure every young person has the ability to move on to further education, higher education, an apprenticeship or employment.  That is available up until the age of 24.

“It is really important for us because we recognise young people have been badly affected often by Covid and we do not want that to be a long term challenge.

“There is support for local authorities about how we can support young people and how they can support young people.

“We absolutely have a policy to ensure any young people who are going through difficulties are supported through this process.”

Pupils will receive their SQA results in August.

‘Determined’ to help pupils trying to secure qualifications

Ms Somerville revealed that she has written to every Scottish pupil who has done Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA).

She said she is “determined” to help those doing National 5s and Highers ahead of results day in August.

Ms Somerville said: “Every learner will have received a letter with details of the support for them.

“I fully recognise young people have gone through a tough time.

“That is why we have written to them directly to encourage them to take up the support that is available if they have any worries.

“I want to wish them all the best of luck because they have had a difficult year. Assessments time can be a difficult time of year for young people. They have put their heart and soul into doing all this work.

“We are determined to do everything we can to help them.”

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