Research published this week by The Robertson Trust and the Poverty Alliance again lays bare the problems young people are facing, not just in Scotland but across the UK. Anne Wexelstein, Career Ready Director for Scotland, shares her thoughts on how we can narrow the attainment gap.

A persistent attainment gap 

We know that the poverty attainment gap starts as young as three and gets wider over time, leading to a reality that education and career outcomes are persistently dictated by background and the social divide. And all of this has, of course, been further exacerbated and exposed by the pandemic.

The scale of the problem is critical and illustrates the challenges now and ahead of us. None of this is surprising or new but it is important to keep hearing about it.

Evidence on the barriers facing young people has been published, cited, and republished countless times over the years. The attainment gap can be witnessed every day in the classroom, in the lecture halls of universities, and in the boardroom, despite the tremendous work done to nurture young people by so many individuals and organisations.

Practical levers of support 

As this report highlights, alongside boosting the income of families, and the direct training, education and employment support of the Young Person’s Guarantee, the attainment gap can be reduced through:

  1. Mentoring
  2. More targeted careers education
  3. One-to-one tutoring

It is vital that we ensure that more young people receive these forms of support.  “Using every lever at our disposal” is about all of us increasing the work we are doing, independently and collectively.

We are just one of the many organisations who work hard to provide this, amidst the extra challenges of the current lockdown, with more young people suffering from the distance between them and the care and support their school community provides.

We know from our own experiences and research that, not only is mentoring and careers support transformative, they can easily be scaled up with the support of volunteers from businesses, ensuring that more young people can access the support and opportunities they deserve.

Help us narrow the attainment gap 

So, if you haven’t already, we urge you to join us and the other networks of support and be there for young people. Together, we can help them negotiate the barriers they face,  and work at narrowing that attainment gap, allowing life to be better for every young person.