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Youth Policy: a 'Guarantee' for whom?

My thesis (accessible by registering on the ethos website) explores the construction of black and minority ethnic (BME) young people labelled by schools and agencies as requiring More Choices, More Chances (MCMC) which is additional support as they began their transition out of compulsory education.

Youth policy in Scotland, is underpinned by the philosophy of social justice, equality and equity, and the ‘guarantee’ by policy of a child and young person receiving the full opportunity to fulfil their potential at school where the priority is to engage with ‘young people to facilitate their personal, social and educational development and enable them to gain a voice, influence and a place in society (Scottish Government, 2004, p1). Information on the ethnic minority student cohorts across Glasgow has been gathered by the schools and the local council in order to plan classes and allocate resources, yet literature and policy continue to be highlight certain BME young people - as at risk of performing poorly through educational attainment and also having a higher risk of transitioning onto a negative destination. This was an opportunity for me as a researcher to explore the identity construction by policy and practice of the BME young person as they transitioned out of compulsory education onto a positive destination, and indeed if the policy meets the needs of the young person through discussion with the young person, school staff and youth workers who are responsible for delivering support to the young people.


Currently the youth policies explored in this research study have been poorly written by policy makers, poorly understood by local government, schools and affiliated agencies and therefore poorly interpreted and implemented. When enacted in schools, it resulted in the needs of ethnic minority young people not being met, and it being a superficial exercise to gather statistical data to form school leaver destination reports instead of making real change happen. The findings highlight the young people do not feel they are listened to, valued, feeling powerless and have a weak sense of belonging to their schools, and are discriminated against. Youth policy needs to reflect young people’s voices, where they are listened to, where issues of belonging and feelings of powerlessness are addressed.

In a climate of increasing surveillance, the tracking and monitoring of young people until they are 24 years old, under the guise of youth policy, ensuring they are economically viable and contributing to make Scotland ‘successful’ comes under question. By creating a stereotype of a disengaged young person which has been evidenced by literature and practice, are we contributing to the construction of ethnic minority Muslim young people, who are perceived as requiring support - or an economic burden on the state - resulting in further demonisation by the media and policy and polarised further to the margins, akin to the labelling of ‘underclass’ or ‘feral youth’ through a neoliberal discourse?

Since the completion of my study, I feel further exploration is required to examine this polarisation leading to the demonisation of the young person could become part of a self-fulfilling policy of surveillance under the ‘Prevent Strategy’ and anti-terrorism legislation (2015) with the construction of the enemy within. Although it may appear far-fetched, the othering the young people perceive through the unequal treatment as equal citizens within and outside the school, labelled as disaffection, can be construed as a baseline for ‘extreme’, as there is a current political focus on radicalisation. This will need to be observed to ensure the focus is returned to equality in the school, instead of linking and conflating radicalisation with BME young people, especially those who are identified and identify as Muslims, requiring support to transition onto a positive destination. The implementation of the Prevent strategy in schools and surveillance agenda, may create further division, fear and fracturing of identity and move policy from the creation of a profile of a young person labelled as MCMC to a young person labelled as a potential ‘extremist’.

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