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Young Scots preoccupied by money and homelessness

As publication of this year's exam results rekindles the debate on their value, Scots youngsters have declared that academic achievement is still the glittering prize.

A survey of 10,000 young people throughout the UK, mostly aged between 12 and 25, showed that those from Scotland are least likely to agree that vocational qualifications are more useful than academic ones (23 per cent). This contrasts with 40 per cent in the country as a whole who believe VQs are more important. Scots valued qualifications in general more highly than their counterparts in any of the 10 UK regions which took part in the study.

The research, carried out over the past two years by the Industrial Society, also reveals that Scottish youngsters conform to stereotype in believing that being able to manage money is the most useful life skill. Scotland also diverges from the rest of the country in identifying homelessness as the most urgent social problem; elsewhere, more concern is expressed about violent crime.

But, while underlining the importance of academic qualifications, young people north of the border were in line with those from the rest of the country in claiming that schools focused too much on gaining academic qualifications rather than on equipping pupils for "real life". Training was rated more highly in Scotland than anywhere else (39 per cent).

Again, however, the rest of the country believes that having the confidence to get on with people is the most useful skill after leaving school, which was rated second in Scotland next to the management of money.

The findings on preparing young people for life and work will be welcomed by the inspectorate whose recent national seminar on education for work, held in conjunction with directors of education, agreed plans to embed the "enterprise culture" more strongly in the curriculum (TESS, November 14).

Hector McAulay of the Industrial Society in Scotland said the views of Scots youngsters diverged in only a small number of areas. But, where there were differences, he said, they were "very encouraging from a Scottish point of view".

Mr McAulay added: "Qualifications are clearly important in Scotland but the concerns over lack of preparation for the world of work is a big issue for education to take on board.

"The survey also showed that young people across the country were very concerned about the future of the national health service and education, and wanted more money spent in these areas. That is hugely encouraging."

The Industrial Society commissioned the research in an attempt to ensure the voice of young people was taken into account by decision-takers and policy-makers. "We don't want this report to gather dust on a shelf," Mr McAulay said. "We want to keep pushing it out to the people who are shaping the agenda. That has particular relevance north of the border with the arrival of the Scottish Parliament."

Among other findings are that Scots rate job security more highly than any other UK region (61 per cent), but they are least concerned about prospects for promotion (39 per cent). Young people in Scotland are also most likely to disagree that marriage provides security for children (35 per cent).

The report, "Speaking Up Speaking Out", is available from the Industrial Society, Quadrant Court, 49 Calthorpe Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 1TH.

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