East Renfrewshire is pioneering a vocational route for 380 S5-6 pupils next year - giving selected candidates the chance to spend half their school week in college or university.
The initiative will replace the authority's existing vocational scheme for S3-4 pupils, which gave 80 youngsters the opportunity to spend one or two days per week in college. It is effectively going against the grain of the national Skills for Work programme which targets pupils at S3-4.
Mhairi Shaw, head of service, said the shift to upper secondary was a precursor to the new curriculum model splitting secondary into a broad-based S1-3 and more specialist S4-6. She hopes the authority will be able to run the S5-6 vocational programme, costing pound;400,000 per year, for the next two years and then include S4 pupils three years from now.
By targeting upper secondary, the new programme offered greater connectivity with further and higher education, since most of the authority's pupils stayed on after S4, she said. "Sometimes when S3-4 pupils go to colleges in big numbers, it changes the atmosphere to a certain extent," she said.
Partners from FE and HE include Strathclyde University (lecturers in hospitality and tourism will continue to deliver a programme to seven secondaries); Glasgow Caledonian University, which offers a fashion and design course; Langside College, which will offer an HND in engineering which could lead to entry into second-year university; and other local colleges and providers offering courses and training in early years and childcare, beauty, sport and a number of other areas.
Already, 25 per cent of S5 pupils have asked to take part in the vocational programme, but there are unlikely to be places for all.
"We want to make them thirsty for it - there will be an element of competition to get on to it," said Mrs Shaw.
The programme would be part of the authority's More Choices, More Chances agenda, but should also be attractive to the most academic pupils. For example, work experience in a healthcare setting would be a bonus for pupils with five As at Higher applying to study medicine at university.