Last Updated: Wednesday, February 10, 2021

How young people’s participation in school supports achievement and attainment, Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland

What is this?

​​This research was conducted with young people from seven Scottish secondary schools with catchment areas that included more deprived areas of Scotland, yet were also known to have more positive exam results than expected. The goal of the research was to find out if these schools were addressing pupil participation and rights in ways that were supportive of pupil achievement and attainment. It was commissioned by Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People (now the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland) to look at how pupils themselves would describe the links between participation and ‘doing well’.

Who is this for?

All practitioners and school leaders in local authorities but it is particularly relevant to the secondary sector.

How was the research carried out?

Seven schools (both denominational and non-denominational) were visited and discussions were carried out with 136 children and young people in small groups. Also 56 in-depth interviews were carried out. Two artists were also involved to encourage young people to express their views. The young people were drawn both from pupil councils and similar groups but also included a number of randomly selected young people.

This research is a wide-ranging attempt to gather the views of children and young people with regard to their life in school. It explored the participation of pupils in these four main areas of school life:

  • the formal curriculum
  • the extended curriculum
  • decision making groups
  • in other places of informal contact among peers and adults.

What are the strengths of the research methodology?

Qualitative methods, such as face-to-face interviews, allow for issues to be explored in-depth and also for researchers to explore any unexpected areas which may emerge on the day. Interviews also allow for researchers to develop rapport with respondents.

What is the context for this research?

The Commissioner for Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, 2003 outlines the statutory requirement to establish a Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland to protect and represent the rights of children and young people. The current Commissioner is Tam Baillie who carried out a consultation entitled ‘A Right Blether’ in 2010. During this consultation, children and young people identified the need to know more about what makes school fairer places.

Following an initial literature review, an Ipsos Mori survey and statistical analysis a number of secondary schools with catchments in more deprived areas of Scotland were identified as having higher than expected exam results. Seven of these schools were invited to take part in the research.

Improvement questions

What is your school doing to encourage the participation of children and young people across the life of the school?

To what extent are staff aware of the research and policies on children and young people’s participation and use this to embed it within the life of the school?

In what ways have you consulted children and young people on their views about participation within your own school? What has been the impact of this information?

About the author(s)

The report was commissioned by the SYPC and written by Greg Mannion, Matthew Sowerby, John I’Anson, School of Education, University of Stirling

Related research/reading


This research was not commissioned by Education Scotland and the findings, recommendations and conclusions do not necessarily reflect the views of Education Scotland.

Full reference

Mannion, G. and ​Sowerby, M. and I'Anson, J. (2015)

How young people's participation in school supports achievement and attainment – Edinburgh, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People (SCCYP).

Link to full research article

How young people’s participation in school supports achievement and attainment, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People (SCCYP), 2015