A Year of Resilience – Launching & Expanding During Lockdown

Despite the setbacks of the past year, Young Scottish Talent has continued to support its young people and even develop in new areas. With lockdown restrictions limiting mentoring to a distance, the programme has faced new challenges and had to adapt to ensure young people are still supported. It’s been incredible launching Young Scottish Talent in areas such as Clackmannanshire and Perth & Kinross while also expanding in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and North Ayrshire, despite restrictions in place.

In this blog, we’ll hear from the MCR team who helped make that happen. Strap in, we’re going on a tour of Scotland! 🚌


Young Clackmannanshire Talent was launched in late 2019, initially running in 3 schools and now including the Support Service School. Let’s hear how the programme is going one year on. 

Eddie Buggy – Programme Manager: “The warm welcome that we have received from both the local council and the schools that we are in, their genuine excitement to have us on board has been fantastic.”

David Cunningham – Pathways Coordinator at Alloa Academy & EASN Alloa Academy: “My favourite part of the launch was building up a positive partnership with the education department within the council and school. They have not only welcomed us with open arms, but they made us feel part of the team.”

Janet Donaldson – Pathways Coordinator at Alva Academy: “My favourite part of launching the programme was getting to know all my young people individually and collectively in group work.”

David: “I was fortunate enough to have been in the school for a couple of months before lockdown. Young people were able to put a face to a name. I have been very consistent with the young people I support. I think that consistency has made my relationships with my young people stronger.”

Janet: “I was lucky enough to see the majority of my young people in school safely during the lockdowns and even the summer holidays. However, there were some young people who didn’t engage much, but it was great whenever they responded to my email.”

Eddie: “CTSI have been a great help and the Time4 Me Project which delivers mentoring within Forth Valley college and is funded by the Robertson trust have been a good link. They have been helpful in supporting the transition from school to college for some of our young people.”

David: “The local community has been amazing! Clackmannanshire is known as “The wee county” and it very much has a community sense about it. Word is getting out there and it’s getting out quick!”

Janet: “The thing I’m most excited about for the future of working in the area is how many more young people we will get to work with. I’m excited for how the local community can help support the programme either through mentoring or provide job opportunities.”

Lance Pearce – Pathways Coordinator at Lornshill Academy: “I am really looking forward to seeing the progression and support that we can see within the young people we work with. Getting to know them over a period of time to let them fulfil and realise their potential is something I’m extremely keen on seeing.”

Eddie: “My favourite thing about Clacks is the pride local people have in their area and identity.”

David: “I love that Clackmannanshire is so small. Although it’s small, there is so much going on.”

Janet: “I love that Clackmannanshire is a close knit community and work together.”

Lance: “My favourite part of Clackmannanshire is the family feel around the surrounding areas and the incredible views!”

Perth & Kinross

Young Perth & Kinross Talent was launched in January 2021 and has been picking up momentum thanks to support from the local community and schools. The programme currently runs in 3 schools there so let’s hear from those who are are at the heart of the programme in the region.

Lizzy Jenkins – Pathways Coordinator at Blairgowrie High School: “My favourite part as a PC has been building a relationship with the school staff. They all offered a lovely welcome when I first started in school and have been wonderful to work with as we roll out the programme.”

Mhairi McKay – Pathways Coordinator at Perth Grammar: “I think my favourite part of launching the programme has been getting to know my young people. Sounds cheesy, but they have been amazing and very welcoming!”

Amy Scott – Pathways Coordinator at St John’s RC Academy: “I really enjoy introducing young people to the programme and seeing their face light up when they realise someone see’s talent and potential in them. I love being a part of their hope and excitement for their future.”

Lizzy: “Because I was very new to the school (only being in school for just over a week before the second lockdown), getting to know young people and the people they live with has mostly taken place over the phone. This has been great for getting to know parents and carers and hear their perspectives on remote learning.”

Mhairi: “I was really lucky as I was in school all of last term. This meant I was able to build relationships with some of my young people which has proven invaluable over the last couple of months.”

Eddie: “PKAVS have got on board in sharing our info online and throughout their networks. They have included us in the virtual events that they have hosted, which has been great.”

Lizzy: “Early in this role I joined the Blairgowrie & Rattray town forum. They were absolutely brilliant, spreading the word and even including us in their newsletter.”

Mhairi: “They have been great and really interested in what we do. I see local groups retweeting our stuff etc which is always good and I hope we can continue to grow here in P&K.”

Amy: “The community have responded well to press releases and at the end of last year we had quite an influx of mentors signing up. The school community have been fantastic in supporting the programme and myself.”

Mhairi: “I’m excited to get even more of my young people matched with a mentor. We’ve already got a few Penpal relationships started and I’m really looking forward to those mentors/mentees getting the chance to meet face-to-face when it is safe to do so!”

Amy: “I am excited about face-to-face mentor meetings, but I am most excited for starting group work. I have chosen to focus on my attention on S3+ and plan to start group work when the schools are back.”

Lizzy: “In school mentoring and group work is not something that young people in my school have experienced yet so that is the area I am most excited about.”

Eddie Buggy – Programme Manager: “Its the passion of the council and schools to make a real difference to the young people that they educate and support. We have been welcomed into the schools here with open arms and an enthusiasm for our goal of improving the life chances of care-experienced and vulnerable young people.”

Lizzy: “My favourite thing about Perth & Kinross is that everything feels so friendly and local. People know their area well and are proud to be part of the community.”

Mhairi: “My favourite thing about P&K is its central location. There is a lot of variety on our doorstep. If you want to go hillwalking, no bother- you’ve got plenty of choice!”


Young Edinburgh Talent has been running in Craigroyston Community High School since 2019. In 2020, the programme was extended to 9 schools throughout the city and, one year on, we hear from those involved to hear how it’s going.

Natalie Smith – Programme Manager: “Getting to know the Pathways Coordinators and being able to support them with my own experience of being a Coordinator during these uncertain times. I understand possible challenges they may face and have the ability to support them individually to overcome these if they arise.”

Georgia Jenkins – Pathways Coordinator at Wester Hailes Education Centre: “Being involved in the foundation work of the programme and seeing the impact we have had in the small space of time. Working out a way through a pandemic to roll out a programme that was very new to Edinburgh Schools and finding the strategy that helped reach the young people we have.”

Donna Connell – Pathways Coordinator at Drummond Community High School & Leith Academy: “Chatting to the young people and getting to know them. Also seeing first hand the benefit it is having on the young people who are meeting with their mentor.”

Jenny Brennan – Pathways Coordinator at Forrester High School & St Augustine’s High School: “It’s been hard at times but well worth the hard work and persistence. I’ve enjoyed seeing the young people engage with their mentors and watching them grow. It’s hard not being able to see them face-to-face. It’s not the same but it’s become the norm.”

Tom Draper – Pathways Coordinator at Broughton High School: “It was a struggle initially, however, I feel both myself and the young people have adapted to it quite well over the last year.”

Natalie: “The local groups on Facebook have been fantastic in allowing me to post on their pages to recruit more mentors and they have been sharing my posts for me to help spread the word.”

Georgia: “Most of the interest has come from our mentors themselves. They are really enjoying the program and have passed it onto their colleagues and friends, which has been great to see!”

Natalie: “I’m excited for when I am able to go out and support the team in-person. We have managed to match over 100 young people with a mentor virtually, imagine how many we can reach when we are able to be back in schools meeting with young people face-to-face!”

Jenny: “There’s so much I’m excited for in the future with the YET programme. I can’t wait to get back into the schools to see the young people face-to-face, to get the mentors in and get to know the school staff better in-person. I can’t wait for the day where the young people can just pop by and have a chat with me in my classroom!”

Donna: “I can’t wait to see the difference the programme can make!”

Georgia: “My favourite thing is that it’s so diverse. You have so many different walks of life and you can attend one school around the corner from the other and have completely different ways and attitudes and needs.”

Tom: “Edinburgh is the most beautiful city in the UK and has history everywhere. Loads of famous scientists and philosophers have lived here.”

Jenny: “There’s so much to do in Edinburgh. It’s got amazing places to escape to, it’s full of history and it has so much for our young people to get involved in!”


Initially launched at St Machar Academy in 2018, the Young Aberdeen Talent programme was expanded to 6 schools in 2020. With the expansion happening during lockdown, we hear from the programme manager and coordinators to see how it’s progressing.

Heidi Bisset – Programme Manager: “Seeing the new Pathways Coordinators go into their new schools and begin to build strong relationships with the young people, despite in some cases having never met in real life.”

Beth Ferguson – Pathways Coordinator at Harlaw Academy: “Really love group work; love doing mentor training and inductions; I enjoy facilitating virtual mentoring calls because I get a glimpse of the happiness mentoring brings to the young people.”

Roy MacQueen – Pathways Coordinator at Hazlehead Academy: “Getting to meet and working with the young people. Getting to know them and seeing from the outset how the programme will help them has been enjoyable and interesting. It has helped retain motivation throughout what has been a challenging year.”

Beth: “Surprisingly successful on the whole. It has been a fantastic opportunity to deepen relationships with some young people that were already engaged. My referral caseload trebled over lockdown which is brilliant but it has been challenging to introduce myself to young people over the phone.”

Roy: “I’ve actually had more frequent contact with some of them than I might have had we been in school. I don’t always see all of the pupils I work with on a weekly basis in school whereas over lockdown I have been calling them weekly.”

Heidi: “COVID-19 has impacted on the ability to get the word out there, however social media engagement is increasing and once we can be face-to-face this can only improve.”

Roy: “There appears to have been lots of interest for new mentors via word of mouth and social media posts. The parents I have had the opportunity to speak to over lockdown have been very welcoming of the support.”

Tracy Duncan – Pathways Coordinator at Lochside Academy: “Its been Facebook and word of mouth so far and this has gone quite well.”

Heidi: “I don’t think I can pin it down to one thing but I am so excited to see how the budding relationships with our young people and their mentors flourish. In addition to this, seeing the pupils grow in confidence, resilience and ambition as a result.”

Roy: “I’m really looking forward to inviting mentors into the school. So far none of my mentored young people have met their mentors in person yet, so this will be a really nice moment when it is permitted.”

Tracy: “Getting relationships established with the young people and their mentors. Working face-to-face with the young people daily and being able to deliver the programme in the way in which it is intended.”

Heidi: “I adore the architecture, the beach, the history and the fact that the mountains and sea are so close.”

Beth: “The beauty around Aberdeenshire; I can’t wait to when restrictions ease as we can travel more into the Shire to visit all the places.”

Roy: “I like that it is a city but it still has quite a ‘local’ feel. There are also lots of really nice parks which I enjoy and it is close to some really nice scenic/rural areas too.”

Tracy: “The Cairngorms on our doorstep!”

North Ayrshire

Much like Edinburgh and Aberdeen, Young Ayrshire Talent launched in Auchenharvie Academy, before recently expanded into 6 schools across the region. We hear from the team to see how they feel the programme is going.

Katie Brown – Programme Manager: “Knowing that the MCR programme can reach and support so many more young people across North Ayrshire to find, grow and develop their talents. Also, having the opportunity to meet the headteachers and school staff who want what’s best for their young people and believe that the MCR programme can make a difference.”

Stephanie Craig – Pathways Coordinator at Auchenharvie Academy: “Knowing that when a young person transfers school they have a good chance of being able to continue the programme at their new school! With some schools being so close, I’m sure mentors will be able to transfer too which will be great for young people and some continuity.”

Lisa Campbell – Pathways Coordinator at Irvine Royal Academy: “For me it has been getting to know more people and the excitement of all being involved in something new.”

Katie: “Living in North Ayrshire and knowing the local community, they are always very supportive and want the best for their young people and their future. Since our press release in February we have seen over 50 mentors sign up which is thanks to support from local media and members of the public spreading the word and sharing MCR’s mission.”

Stephanie: “This is something that I think we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of. My school have been amazing from the beginning with supporting me in my role. Equally, my mentors have been great at spreading the word too and I know they are excited about the expansion too.”

Lisa: “The staff in my school have been great so far. They are all really buying into the programme and keen to learn more about it. They have also been keen to spread the word and help to recruit mentors which has been great.”

Paul Montgomery – Pathways Coordinator at Ardrossan Academy: “We’ve had a brilliant response from mentors in our area, I’ve spoken to several and they are all very keen and enthusiastic.”

Katie: “Linking in and creating working relationships with local partners to not only enhance young people’s experience of the programme but ensuring young people go on to positive destinations when they leave school. Also, to meet some of the amazing mentors who volunteer to support our young people.”

Stephanie: “Working together as a team! Having worked as a single school, it’ll be nice to have more schools offering the programme. Young people can have friends across the schools so creating more of a sense of community will be great!”

Lisa: “Getting to meet the young people and learning more about them. I am looking forward to being a person that they feel they can come to, who isn’t necessarily a teacher or someone that they may see as a person of authority.”

Katie: “Growing up in North Ayrshire it was always evident that there was real community spirit. I always love how the community pulls together for festivals such as the Marymass. When I was younger I always loved attending to watch the parade.”

Stephanie: “My school, can I say that?! There is a real team effort with young people always at the heart! More generally, Arran! Looking forward to a trip there when restrictions ease.”

Paul: “The down to earth people and the coastline!”

Has the Young Scottish Talent programme come to your area? #BeTheBridge between a young person’s talent and life possibilities by signing up today! And keep watching this space to find where we’re going next…

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