School will say, be our guest

1st April 2005 at 01:00
North Lanarkshire is to create the first comprehensive school in Scotland specialising in hospitality and enterprise - with ingredients from the Mediterranean thrown into the recipe.

The authority has already committed pound;600,000 over three years to making Cardinal Newman High in Bellshill a "junior hospitality academy", along the lines of its existing "enhanced" sports and music comprehensives.

However, it has also nominated Cardinal Newman High to become one of Scotland's first 20 schools of ambition, which will each attract pound;100,000 a year in funding to support their transformation.

Michael O'Neill, North Lanarkshire's director of education, said the money would allow the authority to take the Cardinal Newman High project to a higher level, as envisaged in the Scottish Executive's programme. The council also plans to nominate Kilsyth Academy in the next round of bids, in its case to become an expressive arts comprehensive.

Mr O'Neill, whose concept of enhanced comprehensives is believed to be one of the inspirations behind the schools of ambition programme, said that North Lanarkshire's bid to make Cardinal Newman High a hospitality comprehensive also included the other elements of the authority's strategy for comprehensive schools - an expectation that they will take advantage of the relaxation of the age and stage regulations; flexibility across the different modes of study; an alternative curriculum; and vocational studies.

Isabelle Boyd, the school's headteacher, said: "We have a vibrant home economics department here and are always on the look-out to extend pupils'

opportunities in terms of the hospitality industry by building up partnerships with local business and commerce. We have a really hard-working principal teacher of home economics and one of the deputy headteachers comes from home economics. We see this as an opportunity to harness the success of the school."

Hospitality was already a popular option with S5 and S6 pupils doing National Qualifications, and Mrs Boyd hoped the move would give pupils in the middle school greater curricular flexibility.

Under the proposals, the school would build a training kitchen as well as a cafe cum restaurant with a serving area. "We want to encompass all aspects of the industry - the food preparation process, food hygiene, financial accounting, front office procedures, using spreadsheets, and business communication and marketing," Mrs Boyd commented.

The plan includes a close partnership with Motherwell College, whose hospitality department has a high reputation, so that chefs and college staff would come into the school. There are also likely to be links with a local hotel that would provide placements in all aspects of the trade.

Mrs Boyd hopes the project will offer opportunities for the rest of the community, with facilities made available to other schools in the Bellshill area.

Staff development for teaching and non-teaching staff could include opportunities to gain certificates in food hygiene - a requirement when running events such as coffee mornings. As part of its integrated community school approach, the school hopes to open the facilities to community groups in the evenings. These might include single parents keen to learn about healthy eating.

Mrs Boyd said: "As a hospitality and enterprise comprehensive, we want to offer enterprise in the widest sense of the word - not making and selling goods but exhibiting a can-do attitude. Our ambition is to be in a situation where we will have all our pupils in S3 offered award-bearing vocational courses."

Youngsters in S3 would do eight subjects, one of which would be vocational and the rest a mixture of Standard grades or National Qualifications. For instance, an S3 pupil might be doing seven Credit Standard grades and an award-bearing course in hospitality or horticulture.

Mrs Boyd is insistent that the vocational options are offered on-site, not at the local colleges, so that when the additional funding comes to an end everything is in place and sustainable.

Mr O'Neill hopes the school can forge partnerships with Pistoia in Italy and Palma in Majorca, where North Lanarkshire already has close exchange links.

One of Italy's top hospitality training schools is at Monte Cattini in Pistoia where students aged 13-20 are trained. The Juniper Serra school in Palma, a vocational school, has a particularly strong hospitality department.

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