Students from 34 schools across the Lothians and the Scottish Borders gathered at Queen Margaret University recently to kick start a year of learning with the pioneering South East Scotland Academies Partnership programme.
This year’s new students are the fifth group to join the Academies programme, a project led by QMU and Edinburgh College in collaboration with five local authorities, Borders College and West Lothian College.
Students from Beeslack. Dalkeith, Lasswade, Newbattle, Penicuik and St David’s High Schools are involved.
The Academies give young people the opportunity to study at college and university, undertake work experience and learn about industry while still at school, highlighting career options and improving employability. Students, aged between 15 and 18, can choose to study on the Academies programme for one or two years during their senior school year. This puts them in the unique position of being at school, college and university all at the same time, ultimately giving them a competitive advantage amongst their peers and providing wide-ranging educational experience.
Dr Richard Butt, deputy principal of QMU, said: “The academy experience helps to break down barriers to education by allowing young people to experience both college and university life before they have left school. Importantly, it gives them an outstanding opportunity to find out about the industries they may choose to work in. This ensures they are better informed than ever before to make positive choices about their educational and career pathways.”
He continued: “We are very proud of our ground-breaking academies’ initiative which is helping many students secure places at college and university, with some choosing to skip further studies and go directly into industry. The initiative helps to raise aspirations with many students being the first in their family to go on to university.”
Edinburgh College principal Annette Bruton, said: “The academies’ programme has been running for five years now and is well-established as an excellent option for young people to figure out what they want to do with their lives.
“The blend of college, university and the workplace prepares them for whatever they go on to next, and they’re getting to explore industries they might want to be part of. The industries are really important ones for Scotland so the academies provide excellent opportunities for students to learn about the roles they can play in our country’s future development.
“We have seen some fantastic progress from the students involved. It provides an insight into college and university life and the workplace from a young age meaning the students have better knowledge and experience of the industry when they leave school and are faced with more advanced education and work.
“We look forward to the year ahead and wish the students every success on their programmes.”
In 2012, the Academies started off by providing educational opportunities for young people in three East Lothian schools. It now offers outstanding learning and career opportunities to 15-18 year old school pupils in East Lothian, Midlothian, West Lothian, Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders. The initiative is hailed as one that is delivering real results for Scotland’s young people. Three years ago, the project started off with the Hospitality and Tourism Academy which aimed to smooth the transition between school, college, university and work, as well as raising standards within the industry.
This year, The South East Scotland Academies Partnership is running four academies in Hospitality and Tourism; Creative Industries, Food Science and Nutrition; and Health and Social Care. The academies provide young people with a real insight into key growth industries and improve their employability by developing specialist skills and knowledge.
Academy students gathered for group photographs in the grounds of Queen Margaret University’s campus in Musselburgh where they will study part of their academy programme. Learning for all four academies also involves the students taking classes with academics and getting presentations from industry experts at the university. Students will also study at Edinburgh College, Borders College or West Lothian College depending on where their schools are located. Many will also gain work experience in industry, for example, with hotels and will have the opportunity for industry visits to places such as the BBC, Edinburgh Filmhouse and the NHS.