Excerpts from the keynote speech made by John Swinney to the SCQF 2018 Conference.


The Scottish Government’s ambition is for a world class education and skills system. A system that delivers the best value to the learner, whereby all learners are on the right route to the right job, through the right course via the right information. 

To maximise their talent, every young person has a right to a high standard of guidance, advice and support so that they can be sure they are making the right decisions about their learning and career pathways. 

Equally, in order to ensure all young people have access to the choices that are right for them, we need the right balance and blend of learning options in our post 15 education and skills system – with parity of esteem across the system as a whole. 

Scotland cannot afford to be one dimensional in its approach to education and we cannot afford to waste the talents of our young people.

I am clear that we want our young people to be equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to reach their full-potential in their careers and in their wider lives. 

We want all our young people to be able to access the highest-level skills. And this is why we want all those skills to be available in all our schools, colleges and universities, through a range of high quality, flexible pathways that reflect different needs, aspirations and ways in which young people learn.  This is the key to getting our young people to where they need to be.



Our post 15 education system has evolved at a considerable pace, adapting to different economic circumstances and this has resulted in new types of collaboration. We want to capitalise on this and build toward a fully co-created senior phase that is capable of preparing our young people for a rapidly changing world of work; that is a balance of skills, of apprenticeships and employer engagement; and driven by a focus on the destinations of young people into the high-level skills the Scottish economy demands.



Thanks to Skills Development Scotland and their partners, these pathways from the senior phase are expanding further thanks to the new Foundation Apprenticeships.

Using the SCQF to tackle issues of parity of esteem, the FA, levelled at at SCQF level 6, presents a vocational learning destination in school – something for our young people to aspire to and tackling at the outset employer expectations of the skills needs of young people. 

To ensure all young people can access these new level 6 qualifications, SDS are committed to work with LAs, schools and colleges to align school curriculum to create pathways onto Foundation Apprenticeships and beyond into Modern Apprenticeships, employment and higher education. 

Foundation Apprenticeships are now offered across all local authority areas and in this academic year more than 1,200 young people were enrolled. The numbers will further expand as Scottish Government has reaffirmed its commitment to Foundation Apprenticeships with the announcement in March 2017, for there to be 5,000 places available by 2019.



Colleges sit at the heart of a joined up tertiary education system and so are key to so many different learner journeys. Despite this our research tells us the school system and other influencers don’t consistently promote colleges in the same way that they promote university. Moreover, that it doesn’t consistently promote higher education as being equally about colleges as about universities.

In terms of higher education, for about a decade colleges and universities have been collaborating to deliver full-progression from a college HNC to year 2 of a degree and from a college HND to year three of a degree (making maximum use of the four-year degree) i.e. all of their academic credit is recognised and so they waste no study time when they progress to university. The system calls this ‘articulation’.




This final section is important because colleges accept a wider range of qualifications to enter their courses. This means that there is a route to a degree for more than the 5 Highers in S5 group. Learners who complete an FA can move to an HNC or HND in college and from there articulate to a degree, or they can remain in the college system and get a qualification that is vocational and leads on to a skilled career that way. College delivery partners are committed to accepting the FA for entry to HNC courses, HND, depending on the supporting qualifications on leaving school.