Youth work's role in Scottish education

Sara Galilea, a Public Policy MSc student at the University of Edinburgh completed a placement based dissertation with YouthLink Scotland in the summer of 2022. The focus of Sara’s dissertation was exploring the role of youth work in the Scottish educational system.

Profile shot of Sara Galilea, research student at YouthLink Scotland.


Partnership between youth work and the formal education system has gained increasing relevance within the Scottish Education System. However, youth work’s role in education has not been fully understood, and some tensions have marked the interaction between systems. In this context, this research aims to generate more profound knowledge regarding the role that youth work has taken in the education system and the challenges the sector is confronting in performing this role.

This topic is explored by analysing the interaction between policy – through educational framework analysis – and practice – through interviews with youth work sector actors. Overall, the research shows that the Scottish Educational Framework has installed a rhetoric that positions youth work as a relevant education partner and is coherent with its core elements; however, a series of factors have generated a gap between policy discourse and its implementation, and sometimes relegated youth work to a secondary role within the education system. This context of operation has presented a permanent challenge for the sector, as being in this position has obligated the sector to be constantly justifying its practice and made the boundaries of its identity vulnerable to external expectations.

These findings expect not only to contribute with knowledge for the sector to further enhance its position within the educational system, but also to give clues regarding broader challenges operating in the Scottish System that could be translated to other practices.


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We're here to help with any research enquiries you have. If you are interested in hearing more about the research conducted by the students, contact our Senior Policy & Research Officer Dr Amy Calder.