Last Updated: Monday, March 05, 2018

Raising aspirations / widening access / closing the aspiration gap - Viewforth High School

What is this?

A targeted programme for pupils at Viewforth High School for whom barriers to higher education exist including :–

  • an engagement programme raising family aspirations and identifying barriers
  • support in financial planning for families
  • building learner self-confidence and self-worth through community leadership opportunities
  • additional support to raise academic achievement​.

Who is this for?

​This exemplar will be useful to secondary practitioners.

How to use this exemplar to improve practice?

When looking at the aspiration gap, we identified a need to work with learners and their families in both aiding them in realising their potential as well as supporting them in achieving it. Our work identified, among others, four key barriers to young people successfully transitioning to university.

The first is academic achievement. As national trends show, academic attainment is linked to levels of deprivation and this led us to consider what targeted support could be put in place to support those young people and their families. Secondly, financial concerns were key in determining some families’ decisions. In addressing this we sought to provide families with additional guidance in financial planning to support their child through university. Thirdly we identified developing the young person’s self-confidence and resilience to enter the social world of university life as being a barrier. In addressing this we worked with young people and their families in visiting universities and breaking down both geographical/transport barriers as well as perceptions of these environments. Lastly, we identified the need to strengthen young people’s personal statements by supporting them to take on leadership roles within the local community in new and unfamiliar contexts.

Improvement questions

  1. How effectively are we ensuring learners achieve appropriate and sustained positive destinations when they leave school?
  2. How well are we removing barriers to destinations and ensuring equity for all?
  3. How can we work better together with families to explore attractive and appropriate destinations for learners?
  4. How well do we seek out and respond positively to potential partnerships which will lead to opportunities for the children and young people we work with?
  5. How well are we working with learners, parents and carers, employers, colleges and other partners to develop an effective approach to careers education which supports them into appropriate and sustained positive destinations?

​Explore this exemplar

What was done?

Learners were profiled using Secondary On Screen Curriculum Assessments (SOSCA), Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) data, attainment data and indicated destination data. Using this data those learners who had demonstrated the academic potential to go on to university were encouraged to share their views about their future before a final group was identified. Parents were invited to discuss their child’s possible destination and any potential barriers. Working closely with learners and their parents/carers, individual plans were then designed and put in to place to provide the young person with both opportunities to develop confidence as well as receive additional support. Families were provided with additional support to plan for their child’s transition.


Set in the context of socio-economic disadvantage we identified limited ambition and aspiration amongst our learners and their families. While Insight showed how the performance in qualification of our S6 leavers from SIMD 1-3 outstrips virtual comparators and national averages, the school leaver destination data (SLDR) indicates that 15% fewer of those suitably qualified go on to take up places in Higher Education.

What was the impact?

  • An increased number of leavers successfully transitioning to higher education destinations.
  • Families who felt better equipped to plan support their child in the transition into higher education.
  • Young people more confident and self-assured in making the transition to a higher education setting and the social aspects of this.
  • Young people with increased academic achievement and strengthened evidence to support an application statement.
  • Positive feedback and engagement of identified families.