Thousands of Scottish pupils are being left behind in the quest for jobs and further education due to weaknesses in school career services.

Many boys feel they lack rewarding and successful work experience, while girls are afflicted by negative thinking about their future, according to research.

The Dundee University study also shows pupils living in areas of higher deprivation are far more pessimistic about postsecondary prospects than peers from affluent postcodes.

Its authors have called for career planning to be more responsive to individual needs and say increased exposure to role models could help boost young people, particularly those from poorer backgrounds.

Researchers also warned that, despite intensive and sustained intervention, too many fail in the transition from school life and end up joining the ranks of the unemployed.

Dr Walter Douglas, lead research author and a chartered educational psychologist at the Kelvin Centre in Glasgow, said: “This is not about faulting teachers – we’re great admirers of teachers.

“But what we are saying is that we need to push the debate on and that, when it comes to careers and what a child does after they leave school, one size doesn’t fit all.

“In spite of the best efforts of teachers, you still have around 10 per cent of young people who are unemployed after leaving school, which leads to very negative outcomes for those individuals.

HeraldScotland: Around one in ten school leavers still end up among the ranks of the unemployed.Around one in ten school leavers still end up among the ranks of the unemployed.

“Everyone has worked really hard to remove the external barriers to the progress of young people.

“The Scottish Government has worked really hard to provide funding to get them into fully funded work and training placements, for example. But what we’re saying is that there are some barriers that are internal to the child and their way of thinking about what they will do after they leave school, and that these need to be addressed.”

Dr Douglas stressed that, as well as deprivation, gender-specific factors were having an impact.

“There’s a bravado among boys – a stronger feeling that they will be able to do what is required of them – even though they are less likely to say they have had positive experiences of work while at school and even though girls are more successful at moving into postsecondary work, training or education at every level of deprivation,” he said.

“But girls are much more negative on the emotional side, in terms of their thinking about work and career. Boys are talking themselves up – girls talk themselves into failure.

“If teachers can identify what barriers are there in terms of a child’s experience or thinking, it allows them to intervene in a much more specific and targeted way.”

He added: “We have developed assessment instruments to enable busy teachers to quickly identify which young people should get which interventions in their final years of high school.

“These assessments could be used to identify school leavers who are at greater risk of failing to move into a secure place in education or employment after school because of their lower self-efficacy beliefs – or, in common language, confidence.

The instruments could also help teachers to identify likely sources of such beliefs in individual children.

"Our research indicates that young people from less advantaged backgrounds would benefit from increased exposure to successful career role models, particularly models with familiar cultural affiliations who young people perceive as similar to themselves and their own personal aspirations."

HeraldScotland: Education Secretary John Swinney.Education Secretary John Swinney.

The Scottish Government said statistics published last February showed more young people were in study, training or work three months after leaving school than ever before, while the difference between the richest and poorest communities for those moving into a positive destination was narrowing.

Stressing that Covid-19 had made it harder to close the poverty-related attainment gap, a spokesman said: “In addition to the significant investment we have recently made to increase the number of teachers and support staff in Scotland’s schools, as well as address digital inclusion, our draft Budget for 2021 goes further in our efforts to close the attainment gap with more than £127 million in Pupil Equity Funding to support those from more disadvantaged backgrounds.

“However, we will always be open to discussing how we can go further to ensure that every young person has an equal start in life.”