Highland school pupils offered opportunities beyond the classroom

Our latest features blog shines a light on a Highlands school which is broadening the horizons of their pupils by offering non traditional qualifications.

6 September 2023 - SQA - Categories: Learner stories

Features and developments

Schools across the Highlands and Islands are breaking the mould by offering their pupils a diverse range of vocational courses and qualifications alongside more traditional subjects.

One such school is Highland Council’s Kingussie High School, which offers its young people in S4 to S6 a broad range of vocational qualifications such as National Progression Awards, Foundation Apprenticeships, Higher National Certificates (HNC), and degree modules regularly delivered in conjunction with the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

S6 pupils Gabriela Nagle, Iona Mae Craig, and Rachel Hull are all embarking on study choices that are perhaps beyond what would normally be expected at school.

After completing five Highers in S5, along with awards in Leadership, and Volunteering, Gabriela Nagle is now going on to study a Foundation Apprenticeship in Business Skills, and a degree module in Enterprise and Marketing through UHI Inverness, in addition to another two Highers and an Advanced Higher.

Iona Mae Craig’s timetable this year includes working towards a Foundation Apprenticeship in Children and Young People, and an Insight into Teaching degree module, along with Highers in English, Music, and Sociology, and a National Certificate in Activity Tourism.

Iona Mae Craig sums up her experiences so far: “I have had the chance to achieve different qualifications and gain new experiences through a broader range of subjects, and while I’m still thinking about what I do after school, I have been able to try and succeed in a number of different courses that have given me a taste of what I want to do in the future.”

Rachel Hull, who undertook a Foundation Apprenticeship in Creative and Digital Media last year, said: “The study choices on offer at school have allowed me to gain a variety of skills across several subjects, as well as broadening my understanding of the jobs, and industries that are open to me. I can take subjects that I enjoy, but they also help me with my future education and career paths.”

Rachel adds; “Last year my Foundation Apprenticeship was delivered virtually so it meant I could complete the assignments both during allocated school time, and at home. That meant I could keep up with my work in both the course and all my classes. The work experience offered by the Foundation Apprenticeship was also brilliant, as it helped me learn what a workplace environment in the industry was like and the sort of tasks done there on a day-to-day basis.”

Andrew Findlater, Acting Deputy Head Teacher at Kingussie, says this approach gives young people in their community broader learning experiences, and greater opportunities to succeed in a variety of different subject areas.

Speaking about the decision to offer a wider range of courses, Andrew said: “The school challenged itself to view its offering to senior pupils in S4 through to S6 through the lens of our local context and emerging industries within our area and across Scotland. This encouraged colleagues to embrace new qualifications that may not have previously been on offer through their traditional ‘subject area.’ As a result, we now have more vocational qualifications on offer to our learners and we are seeing them succeed and progress. We are constantly reviewing our offer and how it can best serve the young people we work with.”

To support the delivery of a wider range of courses and qualifications, the school is part of the Highland Senior Phase – a network of over thirty schools across the Highlands and Islands working with The Highland Council, and the University of the Highlands and Islands to offer a range of college courses as part of the school day.

Nicky Grant, Highland Council’s Executive Chief Officer (Education and Learning), said: “The Highland Senior Phase gives our young people a richer experience in the latter part of their time at school. Many of our learners are choosing to study Foundation Apprenticeships which gives them industry experience in their field of interest, and a flavour of what to expect in a potential career, or further study. Additionally, because of the study options on offer to our learners, we now have more pupils achieving at SCQF level 6 – the equivalent of a Higher – which allows them to consider making the move to study a HNC at college once they leave school.”

Robert Fraser, Liaison Manager at SQA said: “The connections the Highland Senior Phase provides, between schools and with higher and further education, opens a range of vocational qualifications and learning experiences for young people, allowing them the chance to develop and succeed.

“As we look forward to young people across the country receiving their exam results for National 5, Higher, and Advanced Higher courses, it’s important to acknowledge too the outstanding achievements our young people have made in a huge variety of qualifications that go far beyond many people’s expectations of what is available in schools.”