How HE can help broaden school pupils’ horizons

22nd July 2016 at 00:00
Scheme to offer a wider choice of subjects to Higher students given major funding boost

Hundreds of thousands of pounds of investment has been secured to save an educational “hub” delivering Advanced Highers to Glasgow pupils from closure. The future of the £400,000 project at Glasgow Caledonian University was in doubt after Glasgow City Council decided to review its £150,000 funding as part of wider budget cuts. Here we explore the pros and cons of the model and if can we expect more of its kind in the future.

What is the Advanced Higher Hub at Glasgow Caledonian University?

It opened three years ago after being given just shy of £1 million from the Scottish Funding Council. It uses senior teachers to deliver seven Advanced Highers to Glasgow pupils – who otherwise would not have access because of issues such as low demand in their own schools. The pupils are enrolled at the university as “associate students” and have access to all the university’s facilities, including its library and laboratories.

Was it successful?

During 2015, the second full year of the programme, S6 pupils studying at the hub achieved a pass rate of 90 per cent, compared to a national average of 81 per cent. There were 167 exam entries from students attending 21 Glasgow schools. The pupils studied English, maths, biology, chemistry, history, business management and modern studies, with 40 per cent of the pupils receiving A grades. A further 30 per cent received a B grade. Pupils studying history and English received 100 per cent pass rates.

Why was it under threat?

Money. TESS revealed in March that the hub could close (“Cuts will prompt ‘radical reform’ in secondary schools”, 4 March 2016). This academic year, the city council contributed £150,000 in order to keep the hub running but in the current financial climate, that level of funding was not sustainable, it said. However, officials last week said funding has now been secured for another two years thanks to a new partnership between the university, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and the council. Under the deal, the SFC will provide £175,000 a year, a sum matched by the city council. An additional £50,000 will be provided by the university. The SFC funding made the project viable, said the council.

Is Glasgow City Council the only council working in this way?

No, and Ian Robertson, Glasgow’s assistant director of education, has predicted that the huge budget cuts councils have been hit with in recent times will lead many to take radical steps to ensure education provision.

What are some of the other models?

Both Aberdeen and Dundee have introduced “city campus” arrangements, which means that pupils will have to travel between schools, colleges and university facilities to access certain subjects. In Dundee, the model was introduced so that pupils had equal access to Advanced Highers – and to save money. It was introduced in 2011-12 with the promise it would save the council close to half a million a year in staffing costs. In Aberdeen, the city campus was introduced the same year to deliver Advanced Highers, but has since been expanded.

What other subjects are on offer?

Pupils in Aberdeen can do “unusual specialist courses” such as Higher dance and Mandarin – although French is also on offer. There are also courses at colleges such as vehicle maintenance and hair and beauty. Courses are also available to disadvantaged pupils at Robert Gordon University to give tasters of studying law or architecture at university. Aberdeen City Council claims that, “Pupils completing courses outwith their home school gain both in academic achievement and social development.”

What do the teaching unions say?

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union, said that having schools specialise in certain subjects could lead to “sink” and “magnet” schools, because pupils will opt to attend the school offering the subjects that they are interested in. He warned against undermining the teacher-pupil relationship that is “fundamental” to Curriculum for Excellence. There would also be huge parental opposition to a move away from local schools delivering the full range of qualifications, he added.

And parents?

Parents would object if less was offered in local schools, says Eileen Prior, director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council. She would like to see a more radical shake-up of the senior phase, so that schools begin to cater for all pupils, not just the academic.


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