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Speaking the language of employment

One of the most far-reaching changes to the curriculum was made at Clyde Valley High in Wishaw, which serves one of the most deprived areas in North Lanarkshire.

Over the past two years, some third and fourth-year pupils have been allowed to drop modern languages or social subjects or both. Among the alternatives on offer have been "Skillforce", a personal development course funded by the Ministry of Defence, an "essential skills" course in basic literacy and numeracy, and "On Track" which is aimed at making pupils employable and raising their self-esteem.

Courses in construction, auto engineering and food hygiene have also been laid on with Motherwell College.

The school looked at its S3-S4 curriculum structure last year and made some innovative changes. Subjects in the creative and aesthetic and technological columns were combined which, together with the previous elective column, gave pupils more choice in what to study. Pupils are free to take any three subjects from this "hybrid" mode - but not before they are advised of the merits of a broad-based course of study.

Clyde Valley High reports that pupils on the Skillforce and On Track initiatives showed generally improved attendance, and some have become more positive towards school.

The self-confidence and self-esteem of pupils taking the vocational course are said to have been enhanced.

Moves to giving pupils greater choice and diversity in their studies is not just a matter of switching on the disaffected learner.

The High School of Dundee is singled out by Learning and Teaching Scotland for its "associated student advanced entry" initiative. This allows S6 pupils the opportunity to take a degree module with Dundee University alongside at least two Advanced Higher courses in school.

A pass in the university module and a minimum of B passes in both Advanced Highers would guarantee entry to the second year in relevant courses in the arts, social science and engineering.

The school reports that, while all the pupils coped with the demands of the module work, "the final grades achieved were not as high as might have been expected". But the experience helped to "demystify" university.

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