Scottish Learning Festival - Construction and hairdressing staff cement relationships with teachers
Going back to college was more fun than expected for Moray teachers. There was much hilarity when they tried to learn the art of cake decoration and a few people were out of their comfort zone when it came to building walls and bricklaying.
But as well as entertainment value, the taster day for teachers and lecturers at Moray College had serious objectives as part of a pilot project on school-college partnerships.
"What we identified was a serious lack of knowledge both in FE and in secondary schools about what we each do," says Jackie Andrews, who co- ordinates Moray College's schools link programme.
"As far as the school teachers were concerned, some of the children came to college two afternoons a week and what they did was a mystery. And as far as the lecturers were concerned, when they went back to school what they did in college had no impact.
"What we wanted to do through the project was to show that, in fact, if you just had a bit of joined-up learning, then there was actually a really good tie-up and they actually complemented each other," says Ms Andrews, assistant director curriculum and quality: school-college curriculum at Moray College.
She has worked as a lecturer and curriculum leader here for almost 20 years and this current post was created after an HMIE review in 2006 identified a weakness in the college's relationship with schools. Alongside the new role, a Schools College Strategy Group was set up to explore further opportunities for strengthening ties.
Moray College is one of five colleges to take part in pilot partnership projects run by Scotland's Colleges. In Moray, school teachers were invited to join the lecturers who taught their pupils for a taster day to get first-hand experience of vocational education in an FE setting. "We wanted practitioners to come and share good practice in learning and teaching, allowing college lecturers to gain an understanding of what school teachers are going through and vice versa," she says.
"The objective was joined-up learning and joined-up thinking between the two groups of people who were responsible for the education of these children."
Tom McGarry, assistant principal says there had always been very good co- operation between the two sectors at a strategic level. "At the more day- to-day level with teaching staff and lecturing staff who were teaching the same pupils, they perhaps didn't have the same opportunity to get together, talk and discuss things and have that mutual understanding of what each did."
During the one-day session earlier this year, 70 teachers and lecturers joined college taster sessions in vocational subjects like hairdressing and beauty therapy, childcare and construction. The teachers came from Elgin High and Elgin Academy, Lossiemouth High, Keith Grammar, Speyside High, Milne's High and Buckie Academy.
The experience helped highlight different approaches to learning - for example, in home economics, practical work in college places great importance on catering industry requirements for speed, which is less of a priority in a school setting.
One of the teachers, Eileen Geddes, principal teacher of guidance at Lossiemouth High, was able to fulfil a lifetime's ambition in the hairdressing session. "I just loved it. It was great to get into the college and have an experience because we actually got to do things. I did hairdressing and bricklaying.
"I always wanted to be a hairdresser when I was a kid, so it was magic - I could have joined the course! Bricklaying - I bored everyone showing them photographs of my bricks. It was great. The only thing I would love to do is have the college lecturers into school for a similar experience and join a class.
"A lot of them had a wee bit jaded memories of secondary school and I kept assuring them: `We are out of the dark ages, there are fantastic things going on in secondary schools which you would just love.' They were quite up for it - they were saying `we'd like to do that'."
Mrs Geddes says there are already links between the school and college through home economics and engineering. "I think it's improving daily - it really is moving on."
`BRING IT ON'
The next stage of the partnership project is funded by Skills Development Scotland and will involve pupils at college filming how their subjects are taught both in college and in school.
A film-maker will work with students over the next year, helping them edit the material to make a DVD, which will be shown to promote school and college links to pupils and parents.
Assistant principal Tom McGarry says: "As the pupils record what's happening almost on a weekly basis, they will be able to take the clips of what's happening in school and show them to the staff in college and vice- versa. So there will be that developing awareness still between the two groups of practitioners.
"Ultimately, what we are really looking to take forward is joint development of Curriculum for Excellence opportunities through both parties."
But are the lecturers brave enough to go back to school? "Bring it on," says Mr McGarry, who made a mobile during his taster session on childcare earlier this year. "It's the only way forward and we would be very keen for our staff to take up invitations into the schools."