Driving tuition offers a big lift to S4 learners
A Glasgow secondary is sending students for driving lessons - at the age of 14.
Hillhead High sees it as the ideal way to fire enthusiasm for a new part of the S4 timetable that focuses on practical skills for the workplace.
The trial project started last week, with the school picking up most of the #163;2,000 cost. Over four days, 100 S3 pupils learned to drive VW Golfs, Vauxhall Corsas and Renault Clios. The remaining 80 students will get their chance in S4 this autumn.
The lessons take place on a blocked-off road at Hamilton Park racecourse, in South Lanarkshire: three students are assigned a car and each gets to drive for 40 minutes, with an instructor in the passenger seat.
They are soon practising to reverse and manoeuvre around cones. The backseat students must watch carefully, and afterwards all three discuss how it went.
"When I told the first group of pupils, they were really excited by the idea of going driving at their age," says Peter Murray, principal teacher of skills for work and life. "When they left my class, they were saying: 'You're going to drive a car!' They couldn't believe it."
The idea came after Hillhead High asked local employers about the most important skills leavers should have and driving was mentioned repeatedly.
The 900-student school sees driving lessons as a way of kickstarting a new skills-for-work section in the S4 timetable, which will take up three hours of each student's week, covering areas such as community work, football coaching and practical science.
"We don't know why we're learning this," is a complaint commonly heard from students in schools, says Mr Murray. The hope is that the driving project will underline in students' minds that teachers do seek connections between school and the outside world.
"There are lots of transferable skills that can be applied to other parts of the timetable - like spatial awareness and peer learning - and there is a big boost to self-confidence," Mr Murray adds.
The lessons are run by driving school On Board Training, which already takes children as young as 10 but has never worked with such a large group of underage drivers. The company says the group-based approach deepens learning and leads to "significantly" higher pass rates once students turn 17 and take their driving test.
Hillhead High hopes that, starting from 2014-15, driving lessons will feature annually in the S4 timetable.