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Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Staying on
More than 80% of young people in Scotland stay on into a fifth year of secondary education, most of them in schools, some in colleges. A sixth year is increasingly common.

In 2000 there were 389 secondary schools with 317,704 students - a student-teacher ratio of 13:1.

The main public examinations come under the umbrella of National Qualifications.

A "Higher Still" programme was originally unveiled by the Conservatives, the changes being held out as a radical reform of the Scottish school leaving exams, making them more exacting but also giving less able pupils credit for the work they put in.

But they were postponed twice amid claims that they were being rushed and inadequately resourced.

Boycotts in late 1998 by the two largest teaching unions - the EIS and SSTA - were called off only after delicate negotiations.

From 2001 there are five levels of attainment - the first three equivalent to Standard Grade qualifications, normally taken in the fourth year of secondary school.

Intermediate 1
Intermediate 2
Advanced Higher

Modular system

Each Higher Still course is split into modules called units; these in turn build into courses. Students study individual units of 40 or 80 hours which are internally assessed, and may combine these into courses or group awards.

Each unit is assessed on a pass or fail basis. Units are assessed by teachers in schools the way that modules have been in the past. It is also possible for students to do units without following full courses.

The more vocational units encompass a wide range of human endeavour, from "Cutting beards and moustaches" through "Forest weeding and cleaning using hand tools" to "Water supplies and drains".

When a student passes a unit the class teacher confirms the pass and this is recorded as part of a student's overall qualifications.

This means pupils are credited for the classwork they do even if they fail the final exam.

There are also Scottish Group Awards, made up of courses and units which fit together to make a study programme. This can lead towards a career path or specialised programmes in college or university.

Core Skills

As well as knowledge in individual subject areas, all Higher Still courses involve "Core Skills". These are:

Problem Solving (critical thinking, planning and organising, reviewing and evaluating)
Information Technology
Working with Others

Like the other parts of Higher Still, Core Skills can be gained at different levels up to Higher. They are assessed partly through portfolios of coursework and partly through exams.

Further education

Further education is all provision outside schools to people over the age of 16.

Courses are taught mainly at colleges of further education, including technical colleges.

In Scotland, there were 43 incorporated further education colleges in 2000, with about 514,000 students.

Of those, 311,753 were on vocational courses and 50,892 on non-vocational courses.

As well as Highers and Advanced Highers they offer vocational qualifications which are employment-related rather than academic.

Other courses are regarded as non-vocational and are generally concerned with hobbies or recreational pursuits.

National Certificate
All this is also changing by 2004 as a result of the Higher Still programme. Hitherto, the National Certificate has had some 4,000 modules covering the vast majority of occupations, including engineering and science, computing, secretarial and office skills, art and photography, music and languages.

Clusters of three "modules" were available, making up coherent packages designed to assist students to go on to further study or employment. They could be studied part time or full time; standards are assessed by the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

Achievement in each module was recorded on a Record of Education and Training.

National Certificate modules could be built up into:

General Scottish Vocational Qualifications
GSVQs formed a broad introduction to vocational subjects such as information technology, personal and interpersonal skills, numeracy and problem-solving.

They were broadly compatible with the GNVQs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Scottish Vocational Qualifications
SVQs were introduced in October 1989 to deliver the competencies industry needs and were based on occupational standards determined or approved by the industry-led bodies.

Over 400 have been available in areas including agriculture, banking, business administration, computing, management, retailing and social and health care.

Further Information

Local Careers Services in schools or careers offices can offer advice on what path to choose.

All young people in full- time education are entitled to impartial careers guidance. Most schools have a written policy statement on this, a careers co-ordinator, and an agreement with their local careers guidance service. Education authorities have addresses for further education colleges in their areas.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority has details of the system.

Links to more Education stories are at the foot of the page.

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