Subject choices for Dundee’s older secondary pupils are set for a major shake-up this year with the introduction of more practical classes.
Pupils in the “senior phase” – S4 to S6 – can soon pick Foundation Apprenticeships (FAs) and National Progression Awards (NPAs) as alternatives to National and Higher classes.
They operate at similar Scottish Credit and Qualifcations Framework (SCQF) levels to those courses, and slot into the existing timetable, but focus more on practical assessments rather than exams.
For example, an NPA in achieving excellence in sport tackles similar subject matter to a Higher course in PE.
But while the Higher course focuses on the theories behind fitness, the NPA uses a pupil’s own drive to perform as the basis for lessons on setting targets and making fitness plans.
City schools are working with Skills Development Scotland (SDS), Dundee and Angus College and other partners to offer kids real hands-on working opportunities as part of their school day.
Passing marks can hold as much weight as an equivalent National or Higher – but are achieved in a way that better suits some young learners.
At Harris Academy, for example, only 37% of the school’s 1,300 pupils go on to higher education at college or university – so plenty of pupils could benefit from the new regime.
The move to support more practical topics has job potential in mind. An NPA in professional cookery, for example, could kickstart a career in the hospitality sector – ripe with local jobs.
Harris head teacher Barry Millar believes the plan to give pupils more options in how they choose to learn is a recipe for success.
He said: “We’ve actually increased the number of subjects we’re offering – and some NPAs can run within another class.
“There are loads of new courses and we can offer these because of the talents of our staff. This is about unlocking pupils’ potential by expanding what is available.”
The idea of subjects that don’t result in a traditional exam result may strike fear into the hearts of some parents.
But Danny Webster, education manager at Dundee City Council, says they can give kids a better chance to realise their potential.
“We’ve stopped asking: ‘how smart are you?’; instead, we’re asking: ‘how are you smart?’.
“These courses can better meet pupils’ needs – but how do we increase the understanding and awareness of an evolving curriculum among parents?”
Barry added: “We’ve been holding evenings with principal teachers explaining the courses so they know what each offers.
“We have to engage with parents and our guidance teachers so they can deliver good advice for the appropriate courses.”
Students making their choices will be given the option of NPAs and FAs for the 2019/20 school term. Funding is coming from council coffers but the aim is to score Holyrood funding as part of the attainment challenge.
Danny added: “One of the foundations of the curriculum is to help meet the needs of society – you need to cater for everyone’s needs. That is the message we want to get out there.”