How one college is mapping out students’ routes to success

29th July 2016 at 00:00
‘Progression maps’ that provide a guide to the array of qualifications and routes available for young people should be emulated around the country, say parents

A set of regional “road maps” that guide students through the options available to them as they move through education towards work should be used as a blueprint for others across Scotland, parents’ groups have said.

The maps, produced by North East Scotland College, will spare students the “draining” ordeal of picking out a path through the array of qualifications available to them, they said.

The 20 progression maps highlight all routes available to learners in the college region on one page per subject area, from school options to courses at Robert Gordon University and the University of Aberdeen. They cover subjects from drama to engineering, computing, legal services and professional cookery, and are aimed at students, as well as parents, teachers and careers advisers.

Spelling things out

It is the first time a college has produced such a definitive set of documents spelling out the options available to students across a region, with a single page graphic for each subject.

Joanna Murphy, chair of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, said: “The more information that there is for parents, the better. We would really like to see something like that for every region in Scotland, so that the information is at your fingertips.

“It is often very difficult for parents to be aware of everything that is available for their child. Having all the information in one place without one option being discriminated against is great.”

And Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: “This opens up all sorts of possibilities that people otherwise would not know about.

“Looking for alternative routes through education can be very draining, so something like this is incredibly beneficial. It really is incumbent on our colleges, universities and schools sector to enable something like this to be created elsewhere.”

Rob Wallen (pictured, inset), principal of North East Scotland College, told TESS that high levels of change to the curriculum and qualifications system had prompted the project. As well as changes to Nationals and Highers, the options for young people have increased with the development of foundation apprenticeships and the rise in articulation to university, he pointed out.

“As such, the system offers far more variety in terms of different progression pathways than ever before,” he said.

“While the variety is a positive, many people do not properly understand the new qualifications, how they relate to each other and how you could use them as stepping stones on a pathway that leads into employment.”

James Dunphy, head of the department for the Enhancement of Learning, Teaching and Access (DELTA) at Robert Gordon, said that giving equal value to all routes available to young people was the most innovative aspect about the way the maps were designed.

“They are like a road map,” said Mr Dunphy. “We talk about learner journeys and we are trying to remove barriers. It is not all about university; it is about giving learners choice.”

‘Useful for careers advisers’

Martin Baillie, a school-based careers adviser from Glasgow, said that having the opportunities available in a particular curriculum area illustrated in one place would not just be useful for students and their parents, but also for practitioners working within the information, advice and guidance sector.

“It is particularly useful in getting across the availability of work-based and blended learning options as well as the more traditional routes,” he said.

However, he added that it could prove challenging to emulate this approach in other areas, where there is a greater variety of provision and where students also had the option of travelling to neighbouring regions.

Ken Edwards, education programme lead at Skills Development Scotland (SDS), which is responsible for careers advice in Scotland’s schools, said that raising the awareness of young people about the diverse range of routes that is open to them was an important aspect of career education.


‘Groundbreaking and sector-leading’

Sir Ian Wood, author of the Education Working For All! report, also endorsed the scheme from North East Scotland College.

Chief among the many recommendations of his report was a call for closer cooperation between schools and colleges, and the promotion of vocational pathways.

Sir Ian said that the booklet containing the progression maps was “groundbreaking and sector-leading”.

“For the first time, schools, college, university and apprenticeships can be seen on a single page in a way that allows young people to make informed choices.

“It encourages full value to be given for previous learning, and promotes equal recognition for work-based vocational learning and the more academic forms of study.”

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