An innovative programme developed by Forth Valley College and Falkirk Council is succeeding in helping disengaged school pupils progress to positive destinations.
A remarkable 99% of the 104 pupils who undertook the pilot School-College Opportunities to Succeed (SCOTS) Programme in 2013/14 have now progressed to college, training or employment or remained at school to contimue their studies.
In addition, all 107 pupils on the programme during 2014/15 successfully completed it with current figures showing 97% of students have progressed to a positive destination pending further information on the remaining 3%.
The results demonstrate the considerable impact that the programme is having on pupils who had the potential to join the NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) Group upon leaving school.
The one year course is primarily aimed at fourth year pupils who are studying at SCQF Level 3 and are at risk of not sustaining a positive destination. It aims to help them make informed decisions about their post-school options by giving them an opportunity to try a range of different vocational subject areas as well as introducing them to the college environment. Pupils on the programme attend college one afternoon per week and experience eight different subjects including construction; hair and beauty; engineering; business administration and tourism; care; fitness, health and exercise; creative industries and science. They also work towards the Falkirk Employability Award throughout the course.
Within their schools, the young people involved also work with teachers to improve their skills for learning, skills for work and skills for life. They also develop employability skills such as researching for jobs, creating a CV, preparing for interviews and also learning more about the “taster” subjects they were undertaking within Forth Valley College.
Where pupils then apply to college, the programme also enables easier transition by streamlining the progression route.
The link between the College and participating schools has also been a significant factor in the success of the programme. From the outset, pupils are jointly interviewed for the programme by school and college staff. The college team and a designated member of staff from each school then work together to support learners, sustain attendance and ensure proactive reporting and monitoring.
School and council staff are also able to attend the college classes at any time and there are ongoing planning meetings and joint CPD opportunities.
The College is now also working with Stirling and Clackmannanshire Council to offer the programme to high schools in their local authority area.
Dr Ken Thomson, Principal of Forth Valley College said:
“We’re absolutely delighted with the impact the SCOTS programme is having on the lives of young people in the local area. The figures speak for themselves in regards to the success of the programme. The innovative model helps pupils to explore a wide range of potential career paths, especially ones they may never have considered. It opens their eyes to the opportunities out there and helps them make an informed decision about their futures.
“The programme is also an excellent example of how we have worked closely with partners to create a solution which overcomes barriers to learning and which will contribute to a sustainable long term workforce within the local area and beyond.”
Steve Dougan, Opportunities for All Co-ordinator at Falkirk Council said:
"What makes the SCOTS course so unique is the level of collaboration between the school teachers and the college lecturers. This has enabled them to create a course with real meaning for the young people and I'm sure this is why so many of them have moved into a positive destination.
"The SCOTS course has created opportunities for our young people that were not there before and having opportunities to try out different courses first has helped them make informed decisions."
Declan Carson (17) a pupil at Denny High School who was on the first SCOTS course two years ago, said:
“I was one of the first to do the course and it was an amazing experience. I did not know what I wanted to do, but SCOTS gave me some idea as it gives you a taster of each college department.
“It was because of SCOTS that I stayed on to do my sixth year at school. I want to coach sport to kids and the SCOTS course gave me a wee push to focus on the qualifications I would need to get. I am now in the middle of applying for an NC in Sports Coaching and Fitness at Forth Valley College and the college is the only place I would want to go to. I have been here – while still at school – for the last three years and it is a good place to study and is what I am used to.
“I think I would have been unemployed right now if it was not for the SCOTS programme. It has been a very good thing for me and would definitely recommend people to think about SCOTS in their fourth year.”
Zoe Docherty (17) also a pupil at Denny High School, said:
“SCOTS has definitely been worthwhile because it has opened my eyes to what college is all about and to different types of qualifications.
“I really enjoyed the Childcare and Construction sections during the course when I did not think I would. It has certainly encouraged me to want to go to college once I leave school. I have even completed my National 4 Childcare course while in fifth year – one day a week at college - and am continuing with my National 5 in sixth year. I eventually want to go on and complete my HND.
“You can’t just sit around and do nothing with your life. SCOTS opens you eyes and gives you a sense of achievement and informs you of the qualifications that are out there. It also gives confidence and you meet new friends from other schools.
“If not for SCOTS I would probably have been doing really badly in school right now. I would recommend people give it a try, what have you got to lose?”
Chelsea Forbes (17) a sixth year pupil at Braes High School, said: “I wasn’t sure about SCOTS to start with, but in the end I really enjoyed it. I think the programme is a useful thing for students to get experience of different courses.
“I had a wee idea that I wanted to do Childcare courses and then while I was doing the SCOTS programme one of the Care, Health and Sport Department’s lecturers told me about psychology and knew in an instant I wanted to do that.
“SCOTS really focussed me on what I wanted to do. I did my National 4 Childcare on day release at college and this year I am doing my Higher Psychology.
“I will need to wait to see what my grades are before I think about applying for university, but I might be able to go to college to do Social Science and then hopefully that would lead to university.
“When I was in fourth year I did think about university, but did not think I would be smart enough to go. SCOTS has changed my thinking on this and has given me confidence to go for something I really want to do.
“I think if it was not for the SCOTS Programme I would not have a very good idea of what I want to do with my life or how to get there. I now want to be a therapist or councillor as I really want to help people with their struggles.
“I would definitely recommend SCOTS as it gives people an idea of what they would like to do in the future. It offers more hope rather than just leaving school and not knowing what they want to do.”