THE SKILLS for Work programme offers real educational gain for young learners and prepares them for the world of work, according to a report this week by HMIE.
The programme, based around areas such as construction, childcare and sport and recreation, was developed by the Scottish Qualifications Authority to give learners work-related skills which received formal recognition. The evaluation of the pilot phase found it helped participants gain confidence and maturity.
Strategic partnerships between authorities, schools, colleges and other providers had been formed or extended, although in some cases there was still scope to im-prove continuity in the curriculum and quality assurance.
The problematic practical issues centred on timetable arrangements.
The report showed that in summer 2006, the end of the first year of the pilot, 45 per cent of learners did not complete their courses. This was because of poor selection procedures; schools recalling them prematurely for exams or for study leave; the wrong year of completion having been entered at enrolment; and because learners had left school in the interim.
In August 2007, 78 per cent had successfully completed the course. The report added: "Most learners were interested in the subject area, enjoyed the practical content, and were enthusiastic about the range of activities in which they took part. This involved working as part of a team and having an area of responsibility within a task. Almost all stated that their experience of an SfW course had met or surpassed their expectations. Many perceived their course as one of their most positive educational experiences."
In a previous report on vocational education, Preparing for Work, HMIE recommended that courses should have an appropriate balance between theory and practical work. In most SfW courses, this was achieved, but HMIE found that in sport and recreation, financial services, and early education and childcare courses, learners and staff felt the practical component was a smaller proportion of the course than in other subjects. This led to learners in these subjects being demotivated and restless.