Aberdeen fears over plan for S6 brain drain

1st September 2000 at 01:00
PLANS to establish one or two sixth-form colleges in Aberdeen would threaten the Scottish tradition of comprehensive education and raise the prospect of a return to junior and senior secondaries, a teachers' leader has warned.

Councillors were yesterday (Thursday) set to consider a feasibility study into a shake-up of sixth year across the city following an initial report by John Stodter, the director of education.

But Grant Bruce, teacher spokesman on the city's education committee, said he feared that imposing an English model on Aberdeen would merely reintroduce the spectre of two-tier secondary education.

"Nobody wants to see that again. I have no idea how this idea came about because it flies totally in the opposite direction of the inclusion agenda the city has been pursuing in recent years," Mr Bruce said.

He doubted whether the move would address difficult issues such as staying-on rates in disadvantaged areas. Any radical changes would also be a double-edged sword. "If you take away the sixth year, the viability of certain fifth-year courses would be called into question."

Mr Bruce favours developing the local consortia arrangements, already evident in several secondaries. His own school, Dyce Academy, has been involved with Bankhead Academy for 15 years, with pupils transferring for some subjects and timetables are linked.

Mr Stodter, hoever, says that a college for 850 sixth-year pupils - or one on either side of the city - could address key issues thrown up by Higher Still. Even the largest schools are finding it difficult to provide the full range of subjects every year and are forced to make special arrangements for students who want to follow minority subjects.

"In schools with very small sixth years, significant resources are required to sustain sixth-year courses and it could be argued that courses in the lower school have to subsidise this provision," he said.

Initial soundings indicate backing for the plan from universities and colleges. A sixth-form college would offer more specialised teaching, better progression and credit transfer, wider curricula, and improved preparation for further study, it is argued.

But Mr Stodter acknowledges that there would be a significant effect on fifth-year students in half of the city's 13 secondaries because schools with fewer than 1,000 pupils would be less capable of providing viable Higher courses for S5.

As director, he backs consortia agreements. "There is a strong argument for this approach for all schools anyway, independently of sixth-year college proposals."

The authority would be "ill-

advised" to begin such a major reorganisation without an extensive study, including the resource implications, Mr Stodter advised.

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