By Rory Reynolds
A NEW education scheme to reduce expenditure and waste ahead of sweeping public sector cuts is to be piloted in Scotland.
S5 and S6 pupils studying Advanced Highers and the new baccalaureates will be bussed to classes in different schools to cut down on costs.
The new curriculum, which is to run in West Lothian, is intended to be put in place in schools where pupils are learning more specialised subjects.
The ‘West Lothian Campus’ is to see a section of the local authority’s 2,700 pupils visit other sites once a week to avoid wasting funds on classes with just a few pupils.
Along with the classes the initiative will also see pupils using more interactive learning tools like Glow and Scholar.
Gordon Ford, director of education at West Lothian Council, says the changes to teaching will help pupils because they will be studying in larger classes and have more interaction with their classmates.
And it is thought that the new teaching methods and lecture-style atmosphere will also prepare pupils for the move to university.
Mr Ford said: “The philosophy behind this is our wish to provide a top-drawer service to senior pupils, while recognising that efficiencies have to be made and that classes of three or four pupils are just not sustainable.”
The plans are currently at the development stage and being led by Jim Cameron, headteacher of St Margaret’s Academy in Livingston.
Mr Ford plans to have the new arrangements underway this August, and have the full campus programme set up by 2013-2014.
West Lothian’s 11 secondary schools have Advanced Higher courses with class sizes ranging from just 3.8 to 7.2 pupils.
The council has said that the current system limits pupils’ choice, and that teaching and space allocated to the small classes affects staffing levels disproportionately.
Mr Ford said the plan was originally conceived to put an end to the postcode lottery where larger schools can facilitate more specialist subjects while smaller ones cannot afford to.
However, in addition, he said the new system is necessary as each secondary is to have its budget cut by £300,000 on average over the next three years, the equivalent of seven teachers.
Despite this, and the fact that the changes will require teachers to be more flexible, Mr Ford said the teaching unions have not yet raised any concerns over the plans.
He said “We actually want to protect teachers’ jobs and this is one of the ways of doing it, by ensuring we can continue to offer minority subjects to our pupils.”