Enhancement of pupils' experience

The rationale for the establishment of this college in 1953 was primarily to provide progression and deep-rooted curriculum links with the junior secondary schools in Lewis in terms of vocational education - at that time nautical subjects, building and engineering, and textiles.

As a booklet written for the Ross and Cromarty education committee in 1957 explained: "In its functioning, it embodies a wider view of vocational education than was given practical expression in Lewis previously; more generally, it expresses a forward-looking policy which has brought added confidence and encouragement to education in Lewis."

The college, pictured, has of course, moved on from the situation described. The assumption then was that young people would make their choice before 14, staying in senior secondary general education following a traditional curriculum or follow a vocational path. Now, pupils can do both, continuing their general education, acquiring skills and qualifications in vocational training, and making decisions as to which direction to take in the future.

The Scottish Executive's commitment in May 2005, embodied in Lifelong Partners: Scotland's Schools and Colleges Building the Foundations of a Lifelong Learning Society, was intended to enable 14 to 16-year-olds to develop vocational skills and improve their employment prospects by allowing them to undertake courses in further education colleges as part of the school-based curriculum.

This commitment remains, and is being given expression by the partnerships forged between schools and colleges. The objectives of the initiative are being met and a generation of young Scots is learning new skills, attitudes and competences for life.

As the parallel debates develop about skills academies for Scotland and the UK-wide implications of the Leitch report on skills, it is good to know that the maturing relationships between colleges and schools are helping to equip new generations of pupils with vocational skills and experience, and deriving maximum benefit from the massive investment in specialist college facilities that is transforming further education colleges throughout the country.

There will be different solutions for different parts of Scotland, but there is excellent evidence throughout of activity that is enhancing the experience of school pupils.

David Green is principal of Lews Castle College, Stornoway

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