The Scottish Executive is prepared to commit another pound;41.5 million to make a success of closer collaboration between schools and colleges.
Peter Peacock, Education Minister, announced the cash as he launched the final version of the strategy at Edinburgh's Telford College yesterday (Thursday), accompanied by Jim Wallace, Lifelong Learning Minister (who announced his unexpected resignation as Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and minister on Monday).
The strategy represents "a fundamental realignment of the school and college sectors", Mr Wallace suggested. It aims to give 14-16s additional college programmes as part of their school timetable and has been subject to lengthy consultation - including the distribution of a quarter of a million leaflets to pupils seeking their views.
Mr Peacock said research had shown that "pupils generally value college learning during part of their school week".
The key target group is the 30 per cent of pupils (2002-03 figures) who left school without achieving a Standard grade 1-2 or an Intermediate 2 A-C pass. "School-college partnership is not a panacea," the strategy paper states, "but colleges are well placed to help schools raise the level of attainment of these and other pupils."
The additional funding, which will be spread over two years, will be used partly to ensure that colleges do not suffer financially by having to cater for more pupils. They will be supported to waive fees for pupils and to ensure that lecturers working with under-16s have a teaching qualification.
The Executive's paper recognises that school-college activity is "supplemental" to education delivered in schools and will therefore be additionally funded. But it adds there is no justification for any other specific increases, although the Scottish Further Education Funding Council will keep the issue under review.
The paper makes clear that the overall responsibility for pupils' learning, irrespective of where it takes place, remains that of the school and education authority. So there will be no transfer of funds from schools to colleges, other than for pupils entitled to free meals and for transporting youngsters to college.
The fundamental thrust of the new strategy is that "decisions on the type and scale of provision will be taken locally on the basis of agreements between colleges and schoolslocal authorities".
The Association of Scottish Colleges welcomed the approach. "This is a great model because it builds on what has been developed locally and is to be rolled out nationally after being trialled in a huge variety of different contexts," Jane Polglase, its policy manager, said. "It is also a new way of allowing colleges to fulfil their main mission of providing learning opportunities for all."
The announcement covers the qualifications of lecturers working with pupils, a bone of contention between the school and college sectors. The Executive is to set up a working party in October and this will report by February 2007.
In the meantime, the General Teaching Council for Scotland will be asked to confirm that college staff registered with the council or who are working towards a teaching qualification in FE will be able to teach pupils in S3 and above in schools.
The issue is likely to lose prominence, however, since more than 80 per cent of permanent lecturing staff already have some form of teaching qualification.
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