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A qualification you can bank on

Gryffe High in Renfrewshire is set to become the first school in Scotland to offer a qualification developed and recognised by a professional association.

From this August, S6 pupils will be able to study for the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland's certificate in financial services.

Gordon McKinley, education adviser for Renfrewshire Council, said: "The course will be attractive to pupils interested in careers in financial services, who already have Highers but are looking for more depth or experience as a basis for going straight into employment in banks or in accountancy or on to university."

The course is being run through the business studies department. Pupils will be allocated the equivalent of eight periods a week - 240 hours over the school session. They will be tutored by teachers using institute materials and will be assessed in one of the institute's own centres.

Twelve pupils will take part in the first pilot year. It is anticipated that the course will then be made available through other Renfrewshire secondaries.

The move follows the benchmarking of the certificate at level 7 - the equivalent of Advanced Higher under the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). "The driver has been the inclusion of the certificate in the framework. This has enabled us to take it on," Mr McKinley said. "It also fits in well with our policy of curricular flexibility and the promotion of vocational education."

Launched in 2001, the 12-point qualifications framework aims in the long term to encompass formal and informal learning from entry level SQA access courses right up to higher education offered by community organisations, schools, colleges, universities and professional bodies.

The Scottish Council for Social Services and NHS Education for Scotland hope to have their qualifications benchmarked in the near future.

Ultimately, lawyers, chartered accountants, architects, surveyors and other professional bodies could be involved.

Mr McKinley said: "The Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland is the first professional body to have its qualification recognised by the framework, so it is quite a feather in our cap to have been able to capitalise on that process."

The institute is obliged by the Financial Services Authority to have its qualifications for financial advisers benchmarked. Professor Charles Munn, its chief executive in Scotland, said: "The sector is always looking for good quality people. The current education system does not address the practicalities they will have to face in the workplace, however."

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