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Purpose and Nature of School/College Partnership

Purpose of Partnership

4.1 The overall rationale for school/college partnership is to enable colleges to help schools in their task of developing the capacities of pupils as outlined in
A Curriculum for Excellence: to enable them to become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors to society and at work. It can be encapsulated in the following purposes:

  • to widen pupils' opportunities for progression and prepare them for further learning;
  • to ease pupils' transition from school to further learning, training or employment;
  • to broaden pupils' curriculum choices; and
  • to enrich pupils' educational experiences.

4.2 For example, we encourage partnership between schools and colleges to enhance opportunities to: 16

  • give pupils access (appropriate to their educational development) to specialist staff, materials and facilities, which schools may generally be unable to offer (because of too few pupil numbers or other constraints such as accommodation);
  • give pupils the opportunity to undertake meaningful courses and experiences in vocational areas;
  • give pupils the opportunity to study specialist subjects, such as Psychology and Philosophy;
  • stimulate pupils creativity and enterprise, including through Enterprise in Education under Determined to Succeed;
  • place into context for pupils the relevance of aspects of their learning;
  • provide pupils with a different learning environment from that of school;
  • provide pupils with a wider range of learning opportunities (e.g. open and distance learning);
  • improve pupils' access to a wide range of educational opportunities to improve pupils' confidence, self-reliance, self-worth, life skills and attainment, which are important to the delivery of social justice;
  • demystify post-school learning, encouraging pupils to see the value of post-school education and understand the 'lifelong' nature of learning;
  • re-engage pupils most at risk of disengagement with the traditional education system;
  • give 'winter leavers' opportunities to pursue the options most suitable to them in their final school term;
  • support the learning of pupils with additional needs and from special schools;
  • improve pupils' retention rates at school and their acquisition of qualifications, both of which have a positive impact on their lifetime earnings;
  • give pupils the opportunity to explore career options within the context of the 3-18 continuum of career planning;
  • improve pupils' general work-readiness and improve their prospects for employment, including developing attitudes and behaviours necessary for work;
  • give pupils over school age technical skills to improve their chances of securing employment in their chosen field;
  • promote to pupils over school age career opportunities in key areas of Scotland's economy and where skills gaps exist or are emerging;
  • break down pupils' gender stereotyping of occupations;
  • encourage pupils' interest in science, technology, engineering and maths; and
  • encourage pupils' interest in creative and cultural subjects, including sports, art, theatre and dance.

College Learning Environment

4.3 The following features of colleges typically differ from the school environment:

  • less direction and greater self-reliance - there are fewer rules to be followed with a greater expectation that students own their learning;
  • size - there are typically more students, more tutors/lecturers and support staff, bigger buildings, increased resources (library, etc.);
  • varied student population - there is a far greater age mix, students have a variety of motivations and reasons to be at college, and students make a voluntary decision to enrol at college rather than on a compulsory basis as in schools; and
  • curriculum and teaching - there is a more varied level of courses from access to professional, both theoretical and practical courses, vocational opportunities, modular approach, varied course durations, and greater variety in teaching and learning methodology.

4.4 These differences provide pupils with a different learning environment from that of school, one that may better engage particular pupils because of their individual needs or inclinations. We will continue to support the differences between schools and colleges.

Nature of Partnership

4.5 The pooling of resources between the two sectors is essential to the delivery of a modern flexible school curriculum.

4.6 All secondary and special schools in Scotland will by 2007 have effective, meaningful and appropriate partnership with at least one college for S3 pupils and above. Similarly, all Scotland's colleges will have effective, meaningful and appropriate partnership with secondary and special schools.

4.7 Pupils of all abilities in S3 and above will be able to be considered for college learning opportunities. It should be a positive choice to access specialist provision in colleges - it should not be regarded as alternative provision for pupils with additional support needs or disaffected or disengaged pupils.

4.8 We recognise and commend the activities colleges themselves have undertaken in recent years to satisfy local demand from schools. Partnership will be developed with a view to the long term. It will grow in an evolutionary way over the coming years. We set no target on the eventual increase in such activity, because partnership is not an end in itself. It is meeting the identified needs and aspirations of pupils that is important.

4.9 Partnership with schools is an essential and significant part of colleges' work, but it is - and will remain - a minority activity for colleges. Colleges are predominately for adult students and their delivery of learning reflects this. The distinctive contribution that colleges make to pupils' education arises from this role as centres of voluntary learning for adults. It is therefore essential to the success of partnership that that ethos is not altered.

4.10 Options will be made available to pupils as they are with all other students in further and higher education - on the basis of available capacity. Given there is an inevitable limit on capacity to maintain colleges' central ethos due regard will be paid to pupils who will benefit most from activities that enhance their life chances.

4.11 Colleges' partnership work with schools is a priority for the further education sector that sits alongside its other priorities. It supplements and supports the sector's other priorities. Subject to maintaining colleges' central ethos, there is no conflict between them. Growing Scotland's economy (the Executive's foremost priority) and closing the opportunity gap require that we help school pupils to realise their full potential. That is why we are investing substantial resources to increase and enhance existing school/college activities.

Drivers for Increased Demand

4.12 There are a number of related policy developments that will lead to increased demand for school/college partnership. These include:

  • Enterprise in Education delivered through Determined to Succeed (where college provision is one option);
  • the introduction of Education Maintenance Allowances 17 (and the anticipated increase in retention rates in schools in S5/S6);
  • the continued delivery of our target to reduce the proportion of 16-19 year olds not in education, employment or training ( NEET) and the delivery of our target to increase the average tariff score of the lowest attaining 20% of S4 pupils by 2008. Flexible learning opportunities are key to achieving these targets;
  • ending the Age and Stage regulations to remove unnecessary bureaucracy in the exam system. This may increase the number of pupils undertaking courses more likely to involve some form of school/college partnership activity; and
  • the delivery of our Partnership Agreement commitment, the details of which we go on to explain below.

4.13 Also, the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 18 will give new focus on supporting all children and young people who may need additional support, for whatever reason, to benefit from school education. It makes provision for improving transition from school to post-school provision and preparation for adulthood with a view to ensuring that there is a continuum of support for these pupils. There will be a new duty on appropriate agencies, to assist education authorities with their functions under the Act. These functions include the preparation, planning and support for transitions from school for those pupils with additional support needs who would benefit from extra help. It is expected that colleges will be specified in regulations as appropriate agencies to ensure early provision of information about support available in college to meet the needs of potential students. A Code of Practice, which will provide guidance on how authorities and agencies should exercise their functions under the Act, and appropriate regulations will be published by Scottish Ministers prior to the commencement of the Act in late 2005.

Increased Funding

4.14 When we launched the school/college review we ensured that there was no increase in school age college activity funded by the Scottish Further Education Funding Council ( SFEFC) until the outcome of the review was known. Now that the review is complete, this restriction no longer applies. We will increase capacity for college activity from academic year 2005/06 onwards to enable colleges to provide greater opportunities for pupils of differing abilities to access the most appropriate curriculum for their needs and aspirations. The nature of provision for different age cohorts, including the length of courses and design outcomes, will necessarily be different because they will have different needs. Key to the success of the partnership will be the ability of the partners to agree with the pupil (and their parent or carer) the nature of their college learning.

4.15 We estimate that about £19m of SFEFC funding allocated to colleges in 2003/04 was attributable to pupils undertaking college courses as part of their school-based curriculum. 19 In 2003/04 there were about 44,000 SFEFC-funded pupil enrolments, accounting for over 6% of overall SFEFC-funded activity.

4.16 We will make available more than £41.5m across financial years 2005/06 to 2007/08 to implement this strategy. 20 This is in addition to existing resources that colleges devote to pupils' learning. The funding will support, among other things:

  • an increase in college activity for pupils, including more pupils accessing college learning;
  • ensuring that college activities for state school pupils that form part of their school-based curriculum are eligible for automatic fee-waiver;
  • training for the new professional development award and units for college staff teaching under 16 year olds;
  • training for all college staff on pupil welfare and support, including child protection matters;
  • college activity to implement the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004;
  • the reimbursement to colleges of fee costs to Disclosure Scotland for the disclosure of existing college staff; and
  • enhanced careers advice to inform pupils of school/college options and to help pupils reflect upon their college learning in relation to post-school career opportunities.

4.17 There are major levels of new resource from the 2004 Spending Review including the additional funding for school/college partnership for 2006/07 and 2007/08, to deliver our other FE priorities to enable significant developments in college buildings and learning and teaching facilities and to allow for modernisation and further improvements in quality, innovation, modernisation of the curriculum, development of the Higher National qualification, and enhancements of teaching methods.

Spending Review 2004
Total Additional Funding for College Sector













Vocational Education

4.18 Education should open up a range of opportunities to pupils and give them a variety of social, personal and educational skills that are transferable to many different situations, including the workplace and community life. There should be no dead end to learning. It should provide opportunities for further learning, training or employment.

4.19 Vocational education can provide a suitable context, something which may capture pupils' imagination and interest and better engage some pupils to learn. It provides the opportunity to demonstrate the relevance of subjects such as literacy and numeracy in practical ways. For example tiling, a subject which although at first glance may seem relatively straightforward, needs the application of a range of mathematical skills at a relatively high level including trigonometry and geometry. Another example is language study, which can be provided with a vocational focus. This gives pupils the opportunity to learn language skills in a work-related context as part of their studies.

4.20 As a country we are generally good at laying the educational foundations for those who train to be professionals such as doctors, lawyers and accountants. Vocational education serves them well. For at their heart, medicine, law and accountancy are by their nature essentially vocational courses. However, our education system currently does not serve as well pupils who want to enter other occupations. We must do more for pupils wanting, for example, to be professional care workers, electricians, technicians and plumbers. There should be parity of esteem across all vocations and all forms - and places - of learning.

4.21 The nature of college provision relates to the local economies that colleges serve and in some cases to a strategic element of the economy. For example, in rural areas this may be land-based and fishing related subjects. We will not do justice to pupils unless we ensure that their learning is relevant. That is why our lifelong learning strategy sits alongside our strategy for enterprise A Smart, Successful Scotland, 21 which we refreshed in November. Colleges work closely with Futureskills Scotland. 22 Colleges and local economic forums will also work together to ensure the continuing relevance of college provision.

Skills for Work Courses

4.22 The key means by which we will deliver our Partnership Agreement commitment to "enable 14-16 year olds to develop vocational skills and improve their employment prospects by allowing them to undertake courses in further education colleges as part of the school-based curriculum" is through the development of skills for work courses leading to nationally recognised qualifications in vocational areas for pupils as another option choice, for example as an alternative to one or more Standard Grades.

4.23 The rationale for the courses is outlined in Annex C. These courses are new National Qualifications at Scottish Credit and Qualification Framework ( SCQF) levels 2-6. (Access 2 through to Higher). They will consist of 3 SQA National Units at levels 2 and 3, and 4 SQA National Units at SCQF levels 4-6. They will have the same SCQF credit value as other National Courses. 23 Each Unit will be assessed on a pass/fail basis. The SCQF is outlined in Annex D.

4.24 These courses will be integral to the school curriculum. They will not stand alone. Nor will they be an add-on. It may be possible for some schools to provide such courses, but many will be delivered in partnership with colleges. We recognise that the success of these courses will depend on the quality of the progression routes they present to pupils, the extent to which the qualifications are respected in the labour market and the learning community, and how they improve job prospects and career development. The SQA will develop the courses, with quality experiences at their core, in close partnership with the education and training community and employers' organisations (including small and medium-sized enterprises 24). The SQA's review of National Courses will be fully taken into account. The courses will be piloted during the academic years 2005/06 and 2006/07 in order to evaluate them, with a view to rolling them out nationally in August 2007. The evaluation of the courses will fully involve pupils, teachers, schools, colleges, local authorities, employers and other stakeholders.

4.25 Courses for the first year of the pilot are Early Education and Childcare at levels Intermediate 1 and Intermediate 2; Construction Craft Skills at Intermediate
1 level; Financial Services at Intermediate 2 level; and Sport and Recreation at Intermediate 1 level.

The final course designs and associated materials will be available later in May 2005 when the courses will be launched.

4.26 In the same way that pupils studying Geography or History at Standard Grade are not necessarily expected to go on to become geographers or historians, pupils undertaking the new skills for work courses will have open choices to make about their future occupation. The availability of the new National Qualifications will provide a wider range of activities that constitute a balanced education. For school age pupils, they will help prepare pupils for the workplace - not for a particular occupation (though there may properly be exceptions to this in a student-centred approach to the assessment of need).

4.27 The courses will be valuable whether or not pupils wish to pursue a career in that subject area in later life because at their heart will be core and employability skills that are relevant to all, including skills such as communication and team-working. For pupils who do want to progress in their chosen field, the courses will help give them a solid educational pathway that leads to either further learning, training or employment.

4.28 Skills for work courses will provide a greater range of learning opportunities for pupils augmenting existing school/college activities. Scottish Progression Awards ( SPAs), which the SQA initially developed to meet an immediate need from schools for a vocational qualification, will continue to be a qualifications option, but because of their course length they are better suited to older pupils progressing on from the skills for work courses and adult learners.

Articulation to Further Education Courses and Other Programmes

4.29 There will be clear articulation of progression opportunities from school/ college partnership activity. Colleges already deal flexibly with prior learning.
It is clearly important that pupils do not have to tread water in programmes they undertake after school because they covered the content while at school. We will ensure that school/college partnership accredited courses provide pupils with articulation to, and credit for, post-school programmes where possible. This will be built into the development of the new vocational qualifications. The SCQF presents the opportunity for pupils to either:

  • accelerate their programme of study (i.e. the course could be shorter to reflect the work already undertaken);
  • study part time (where previously full-time study may have been the norm); or
  • study further units.

4.30 Sector Skills Bodies will be encouraged to ensure that previous learning in their secor is recognised to minimise duplication. They should work in partnership with the Scottish Qualifications Authority so that Modern Apprenticeships and Skillseekers frameworks provide clear articulation and progression routes wherever it is appropriate to do so and build on any accredited learning. Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise will ensure that the 'Get Ready for Work' programme takes cognisance of previous learning and has appropriate progression opportunities available.

Partnership Performance

4.31 For school/college courses both schools and colleges play a role in helping the pupil achieve awards. For school year 2007/08 onwards, outcomes arising from school/college partnership activity will be included in each sectors' SQA performance statistics. School performance - like college certification - has been reported since 2001 with reference to SCQF levels.

4.32 As there are already performance indicators for schools and for colleges, it is not necessary to develop new quantitative indicators specifically for partnership. It is sufficient to consider separately the contribution which partnership activities make to existing indicators. In addition, school/college partnership will impact on the performance indicators identified in our lifelong learning strategy, including reducing the proportion of 16-19 year olds not in education, employment or training ( NEET). We will introduce qualitative measures of success, which will be monitored via returns from questionnaires and/or case studies. These will focus on issues such as the percentage of pupils who:

  • found the course worthwhile;
  • intend to go on to further learning;
  • thought it enhanced their employment options; and
  • thought it prepared them well for the world of work.

4.33 In 2007/08 we will repeat our research into the attitudes of pupils to college learning as part of their school curriculum.

4.34 In addition, the Scottish Further Education Funding Council's Survey of Student Experience will enable the Funding Council in future to present separately the views of pupils.

4.35 We will monitor through the Scottish School Leavers Survey the progression of pupils who have completed school/college partnership courses leading to a recognised qualification.

4.36 We will establish by the end of 2005 a standing stakeholder forum comprising representatives from the Executive, the school and college sectors, pupil, adult student and Trade Union interests to oversee the national development of school/college partnership.

Evaluating School/College Partnership

4.37 This strategy for school and college partnership will be implemented from academic year 2005/06 onwards. In 2008/09 we will evaluate its effectiveness by obtaining answers to questions including:

  • how well have school/college activities met the rationale and purposes of partnership?
  • what were the benefits to pupils of enabling them to undertake college courses?
  • which groups of pupils benefited particularly, i.e. the ones who most needed this intervention? Was this as envisaged?
  • how did the benefits compare to the cost of intervention?
  • were the resources most effectively targeted in order to achieve maximum net benefits for the investment?
  • what was the impact of school/college activities on adult learners and school and college staff? and
  • what was the economic and wider societal impact?