Blog: Aberlour’s Learning Service Listening to the Voices of Young People


The Learning Service at Aberlour provides support around learning, development and education for young people who are living in our children’s houses.

We advocate for and support young people in mainstream education, as well as offering personalised educations plans to build confidence, self-esteem, and readiness to learn.

Aberlour listening to the voices of young people


When the pandemic hit, we knew it would impact on our young people’s education and our experiences of learning in lockdown have shown that:

  • When pressure was reduced, many young people began to engage with education in their own time and at their own pace.
  • Not every young person enjoyed learning in the same way. Some preferred working independently without the distractions of the classroom, while others preferred the structure and routine of the school day.
  • Relationships between the adults and young people, and between the young people themselves generally improved

What we learned during the initial lockdown prompted us to review how we were delivering our Learning Service and find out how the young people feel about their education. Ultimately, we wanted to use our learnings to improve the learning experience for the young people in our care.

With the help of our independent clinical psychologist, Dr Shona Quin, we reviewed our work so far and identified that we needed to redefine the service for the future. It was clear that our young people had different views on school and how they like to learn. A “one size fits all” approach was not the answer to meeting the needs of the young people. We decided an emphasis on purposeful activity and meaningful alternatives to formal education, alongside creating a learning hub that supports skills development was the best way forward.

Our vision for redefining our service was of Blue-Sky thinking: if we dream big, big things will happen. We wanted to ensure that throughout our approach we were  asking “what do our young people really need?” as opposed to reviewing what was currently available, and how to make our young people fit in. As young people started to return to school, we wanted to avoid going back to what learning was like pre-pandemic. We knew this was not acceptable and that our young people deserved better from us.

Hearing from the young people in our children’s houses was an integral part of us moving forward in our approach . The young people held a unique perspective from the challenges and experiences they’ve had over the last year and a half with their education.

Throughout 2021, and into 2022, we listened to young people and encouraged them to reflect on their experiences with school over the last couple of years.

One of our young people, Calum* said: “I don’t agree with the school system in general. The curriculum is outdated… School isn’t about learning now, it’s about remembering.”

He felt that the current approach didn’t take the individual into consideration “not everyone learns in the same way.”

Fraser* said he didn’t like a full class, he preferred going to learning support because he got space.

Fraser, said it was: “too much” being in class, his head “gets busy.”

Lewis* said that in the past the classrooms had been distracting for him, but he didn’t think this would be the same now. He thought he had changed, maybe grown up a bit. He said it was important to offer “more options of ways to learn…as 9 out of 10 times, if you figure out something that someone likes you can find a way to help them learn from it.”

For some young people, school can be a difficult subject to talk about as it can trigger feelings of anxiousness. However, we made sure that young people had the opportunity to have their voice heard, whether it was through an anonymous survey, interviews, or casual conversations with staff.

Having lived through the pandemic, collaborated to offer more individual approaches and listened to our young people we know there are different and better ways that they can learn. As an organisation we will challenge convention about how best to educate young people and are committed to delivering a Learning Service fit for purpose in this current day and age.


Marc Blyth

Lead Education Coordinator

*Names of young people are changed to protect anonymity.