GLASGOW has embarked on a "schools vocational training programme" which is being billed as the first time an authority in the UK has allowed pupils to give up a school subject to learn a trade.
Nearly 300 third and fourth-years will take up the two-year programme in August as an alternative to a Standard grade course, spending half a day a week at the council's Queenslie training centre.
The youngsters come from 16 secondaries including Jordanhill School in leafy suburbia. They are being targeted because they are deemed likeliest to become unemployed after leaving school, which is currently the route taken by one in five of Glasgow leavers.
The aim is to avoid this by making sure they gain skills in six construction trades - bricklaying, plumbing, joinery, electrical work, painting and roofing.
The initiative is being promoted by the council's building services and education departments in light of the key skills shortages in the city's construction sector where business is booming. The building services department already runs a successful modern apprentice programme for school-leavers from its Queenslie base.
Despite concerns that the new programme could create a divisive two-stream education system, Jim Coleman, depute council leader, said: "It's all about education for work. We want Glasgow youngsters to be in prime position to make the most of the exciting new employment opportunities in the city."
Iain White, head of Govan High which will have 22 pupils starting the course in August, described the programme as "the most exciting curriculum development I have seen since I became a headteacher".
Mr White added: "It takes youngsters into a real training environment and gives them a real opportunity to get a real job at the end of it. It is impossible to overstate the value of that."
The city hopes to build progression into the programme to ward off criticism that it may simply be providing fodder for the construction industry. Courses will expand into hospitality, information technology and child care in future years.
Summer schools will also be built in and participants will be paid pound;15 and pound;20 a week in years one and two respectively.
But the Educational Institute of Scotland, while welcoming relevant learning for pupils, warns of the "negative image" that can be created for a school which does not offer the full conventional curriculum.