Council's campus boosts access to Higher courses

31st August 2012 at 01:00
Perth and Kinross' decision should result in equity of access to subjects across four schools

Perth and Kinross has become the latest in a string of councils to create a campus for senior pupils to enhance their access to Highers and Advanced Highers.

The move follows the discovery that some of the city's pupils were able to sit twice as many Advanced Highers as their peers in other schools.

One of the first such models, the West Lothian Campus, was launched in June last year, enabling senior pupils to apply for courses at any of the authority's 11 secondaries at the click of a button. And the Aberdeen City Campus offers "travelling" classes for pupils whose Advanced Higher demands cannot be met in their own school.

Dumfries and Galloway, meanwhile, is hoping to create a single senior secondary school serving all 1,100 S4-6 pupils in the town (see below).

Perth and Kinross has 10 secondaries but only four - Perth Academy, Perth High, Perth Grammar and St John's Academy - will initially be involved in the Perth City Campus, owing to their geographical proximity.

Under the new scheme, to be introduced next August, a common timetable will allow courses currently taught in only one of the four schools to be available to pupils in the other three.

This should result in equity of access to subjects across the schools, lower-demand subjects being "protected from extinction" and fewer "forced choices" for young people, argued John Fyffe, director of education and children's services, in a report to the council's lifelong learning committee earlier this month.

New options will include additional virtual learning opportunities, building on the example of Heriot-Watt University's Scholar programme, school websites, revision sites developed by school staff, and free sites such as BBC's Bitesize revision resources.

Each of the schools will also be encouraged to become a "centre of excellence" for specific subjects.

John Low, headteacher of Perth Grammar and Perth City Campus project leader, told TESS: "At the moment, Perth is a Confucius classroom hub, so any children who want to study Mandarin would go to Perth High. At Perth Grammar we run a very successful Advanced Higher applied mathematics course - but none of the other secondaries teach the subject. That is a potential specialism for us."

Perth College courses would also be incorporated within the timetable and the authority hopes to increase links with local businesses, such as the insurance company Aviva, said Mr Low.

An audit of the subjects on offer across the four Perth secondaries, carried out last November, found that a total of 55 Advanced Higher courses were being taken, with subject uptake ranging from one pupil to 22; the average was seven pupils.

The number of Advanced Highers offered in the four schools varied from 10 to 21.

Mr Fyffe wrote: "This effectively meant that a pupil had twice the opportunity to sit Advanced Higher courses in one of our Perth schools than in two of the others."

Pupils prove they are willing to travel between schools

When the West Lothian Campus was launched in June last year, the number of pupils travelling between schools rose from 66 to 162. Now the figure is closer to 200.

Pupils choose from 13 Highers, 18 Advanced Highers, 38 Intermediate 2 (or equivalent) and 21 Intermediate 1 (or equivalent) courses.

Jim Cameron, St Margaret's Academy head and chair of the WLC working group, proposed the campus after finding in 2008 that no single subject was on offer in all 11 schools at Advanced Higher level, and only seven Highers were offered across the board.

Dumfries and Galloway Council has proposed a single senior secondary for S4-6 that would work more closely with local businesses and further and higher education on Crichton campus. S1-3 pupils would remain in their current schools - Dumfries High, Dumfries Academy, Maxwelltown High and St Joseph's Academy - and be more closely aligned with feeder primaries.

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