Perth gears up to take on 'city campus' model
Senior students in Perth will be able to access a significantly wider range of courses - from beauty and automobile skills to applied maths and physics - in the new school year after the council adopts a "city campus" approach to delivering education.
The increasingly popular model will be introduced for S6 students, allowing them to opt for courses at any of the city's four schools and Perth College. New e-courses will also be made available for students in the 10 secondary schools in the wider Perth and Kinross area.
The authority is taking a more flexible approach to the senior phase to ensure equity of access to subjects across schools, to protect lower- demand subjects from extinction and to reduce the number of "forced choices" that young people have to make.
An audit carried out in 2011 revealed that while 55 Advanced Higher courses were on offer across Perth schools, some students had access to half as many as others: one school offered 21 Advanced Highers, with another offering just 10.
John Low, who has been seconded from his post as headteacher of Perth Grammar for the past year and is Perth City Campus project leader, said: "(This) is not about saving money but increasing options for the kids. Any savings we do make by, for instance, running Advanced Higher biology at St John's Academy will be ploughed back into schools to further improve what's on offer."
The main aim of the Perth City Campus has been to expand the range of Advanced Highers available to S6 students although, through the campus, they will also be able to study Highers in beauty, psychology, photography and politics, as well as courses in Gaelic, Mandarin, dance and automobile skills.
Where school transport is not available to take students between schools, local buses will be made available to young people free of charge, with Young Scot electronic smart cards to be used as bus passes. Bus routes have been modified to make journeys between schools easier and short videos have been created to help to introduce young people to their new "host" schools and teachers.
The e-courses to be made available range from those aimed at preparing students for studying law or medicine to beginner's courses in Mandarin and Spanish. A number of courses also have an IT focus, including developing websites, games and apps.
The council included the courses because "current curricular courses simply do not meet the needs of the sector", it said. While ICT-related employment was booming, there were not the young people to fill these positions, the authority said. In January, it launched Our Cloud, a website designed to provide support and advice to schools about embedding digital technologies in learning and teaching.
It said: "We are working with a number of partners to offer relevant and flexible courses that could allow enthusiastic learners to gain skills that would propel them into further study in codingprogramming or offer them the skills to get a job straight from school in a sector that is crying out for them."
The first senior phase campus was launched by West Lothian in June 2011, 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 S4-6 pupils in Dumfries. However, if the school fails to get the go-ahead, a common timetable for the senior phase across the town's four existing secondaries will be set up.
Photo credit: Simon Price