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Modern scientists in the making

Aberdeen's education officials considered setting up a sixth form college to give S6 pupils access to more minority subjects.

The idea was dropped, said John Stodter, the city's former education director, because it would prevent schools from running Higher classes combining S5 and S6 pupils. Instead, Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils have concentrated on developing "sixth form enhancement programmes" with Aberdeen University for the last four years to develop Advanced Higher science courses.

Mr Stodter, now general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, feels that the creation of specialist upper school academies might lead to the creation of junior secondaries struggling to offer a full range of Standard grade subjects.

The enhanced schools programmes, giving different schools a lead role in a particular subject, allowed them to adopt a common timetable and give larger numbers of pupils access to specialist knowledge, he said.

John Reid, senior lecturer in physics at Aberdeen University, said that the Advanced Higher physics units, run by his department for schools through the university's Aim4Uni initiative, benefited pupils, teachers and university staff through sharing experiences, knowledge and resources.

Uptake of Advanced Higher physics was twice what it had been for SYS (Sixth Year Studies), with some secondaries in the north-east presenting up to 40 AH physics candidates.

Dr Reid was cautious about the possible introduction of specialist science academies, even for those in the upper years: "Most pupils seem to be comfortable with the school they are in. It is a social upheaval to go to another school. If there are only six in Scotland, the chances are they'd have to board."

He said Scotland had a better track record in providing a broad education than England. Science was moving in the multi-disciplinary direction. There was more on offer than pure physics, chemistry, or biology - for example, space science, medical science, meteorology and environmental science.

The strength of the Scottish university system was that it was absolutely appropriate to the school system, he said. That in turn provided the broad background that modern scientists needed.

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