28 Nov 2019

'Talking Student Engagement' Interview with Leila Adair and Toby Reid

In this interview, we talk to Leila Adair and Toby Reid, S3 pupils and Young Leaders of Learning at Harlaw Academy in Aberdeen. Young Leaders of Learning (YLL) is a programme developed by Education Scotland to equip pupils to engage in shaping the quality of their learning experiences in primary and secondary schools and contributing to school self-evaluation. YLL involves teams of pupils undertaking reciprocal visits to each other’s schools to gain a comparative understanding of different learning experiences and identify ideas for improvement. sparqs has been working with Education Scotland to shape some of the training pupils have undertaken for this role. Toby and Leila presented at the Scottish Learning Festival in September about their experiences as YLLs.

1. Firstly, what got you both interested in the role of Young Leaders of Learning? Why did you apply?

We got interested as it sounded exciting, getting the chance to visit different schools. The chance to improve our own school too was very appealing. We applied to try and make a difference to our school and help other schools to develop.

2. What sorts of things did you learn about in the training for the role?

We learned what a good YLL looked like. We got to meet our partner schools and completed some ice breakers. We also learned about what being a YLL entailed, the benefits of becoming a YLL and how our visits would happen.

3. Tell us about the reciprocal visits you undertook. Where did you go, what did you do and what did you learn?

The visits were educational. We both went to Bucksburn Academy. We did lots of things, like go on tours, meet other pupils, visit extracurricular activities and much more.

4. As part of the programme you obviously hosted a visit from your partner schools. What was that like? Did the visiting YLLs give you some interesting ideas or observations?

We think hosting a visit was probably the most beneficial thing we did. We learned lots of good skills and we were also given feedback which would benefit our school. The visiting YLLs gave us some great feedback which has really helped develop our school.

5. When you presented in Glasgow at the Scottish Learning Festival, you showed a fabulous video you’d made highlighting some of the changes and enhancements you’ve been able to make at Harlaw based on the outcomes of YLL. Can you share perhaps one or two of your favourite examples and tell us how you worked with staff to develop them?

We think our biggest development from participating in the YLL programme was making our S1 playground into a quiet playground. One big piece of feedback we were given was that we should have a designated quiet and safe study area that pupils feel protected in. We worked with the parent council to help fundraise for the money for benches – however the whole development was almost entirely led by pupils, as we would experience the changes first hand. Another notable piece of feedback we got was that pupils were not very proud of our school. We have improved on this by changing the pupil voice system, giving pupils a better chance to voice their opinions.

6. Finally, what have you both personally gained from being YLLs, in terms of skills and experiences? Do you think this will be valuable for what you might want to do next, after school?

Leila - I feel that every opportunity we have been given as a YLL has developed skills such as: leadership, teamwork, organisation, communication and so much more. I’m looking to go to university after school and I think the experience will give me the skills I need to succeed.

Toby - The amount of experience I have gained through being a YLL is immense and will really help me to stick out in an interview or application. I have really grown as an individual and would happily be able to present to a large group of people. The skills I have learned through YLL will really help me in later life.


Thanks to Leila and Toby for being interviewees. To suggest a future subject for interview, please contact us.

This interview is part of a series of occasional interviews on our website with student engagement practitioners – both staff and students, and from within Scotland’s university and college sector and beyond. The interviews aim to capture the different perspectives that people have on student engagement in the quality of learning.

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