From zero to 10 per cent in just a few years for Coatbridge College

18th January 2008 at 00:00
As school-college collaborations become increasingly popular, so too does the ethos of the latter among those who attend both. When asked to compare their learning experiences in the two settings, pupils talk animatedly about the practical nature of the courses at college and the useful skills they learn there.

But there is more to it than that. The appeal of college is as much about delivery as it is about content. Again and again, in schools over the country, young people make similar comments in two slightly different ways: "You get more respect at college"; "You get treated like an adult."

It almost seems as if college lecturers, with their experience of teaching older students and their more varied backgrounds, have a natural advantage over schoolteachers. And no doubt, there is an element of truth in that.

But it's not the whole story, says Douglas Barclay, depute principal of Coatbridge College, North Lanarkshire. Some college lecturers take naturally to working with schoolchildren, but many benefit from professional development.

"Five years ago, we had very little activity in schools. We now have more than 1,100 schoolkids participating in a whole range of college programmes.

"It wasn't easy in the early days. We had to work quite hard at it. We thought at first it would be better to use our experienced staff. Then we realised that some of our new staff also had useful attributes for working with younger kids. We now have a nice mix with about equal numbers of both.

"There doesn't seem to be any correlation with age either - some of our young staff are very good with schoolkids; others find it difficult. Some mature lecturers have a great rapport with them."

Coatbridge - Scotland's oldest college - now has a full-time schools development manager and provides professional development to lecturers - from the Scottish Further Education Unit - on classroom management for under-16s. "Our work with schools has gone from nothing to 10 per cent in just a few years," says Mr Barclay. "We're fully committed to the partnership."

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