Does Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) provide schools with a mechanism to offer a wider range of subject choices in the Senior Phase?
This key question has been discussed in TES articles over the last few months. Here are some of the key messages, with the emphasis on DYW and it’s potential impact on the curriculum and subject choice:
“Local authority education bosses have hit back at suggestions that pupils in secondary schools are seeing their options narrow. In recent months there has been a high-profile debate about the number of subjects pupils are able to study in S4, but MSPs were told today that it can be misleading to look at this issue in isolation.”
“Mark Ratter, who heads up quality improvement and performance at East Renfrewshire Council’s education services, said that, thanks to partnerships with colleges, universities and employers, as well as the Developing the Young Workforce national policy, there was actually now “a far greater choice” in what pupils could study. In one East Renfrewshire secondary school, for example, S5-6 pupils “have a choice of over 130 different courses”.”
“Tony McDaid, South Lanarkshire Council’s executive director of education resources, said you could understand parents comparing how many subjects different schools were offering at S4 and their “natural anxiety” around that. However, they reacted well when they heard that “this is not just about your fourth year, you can do another subject when you move into fifth year”, and that there was a focus on the career a pupil was ultimately heading towards and the qualifications they would gain “across the whole senior phase” from S4-6.”
“Angus Council schools and learning director Pauline Stephen said there was “an ongoing challenge” to communicate to pupils’ families the “shifting and different” education system that pupils experience in 2019. Dr Stephen cited new types of qualifications such as Foundation Apprenticeships, which were little known outside education circles and sometimes wrongly viewed as inferior to other qualifications.
Dr Stephen said that Brechin High, for example, had worked with a local roofing business to open a construction centre at the school, which “allows us to offer qualifications alongside an employer in partnership – it’s been really successful”.”
Developing the Young Workforce
“DYW is a ‘game-changer’ – and it has Curriculum for Education to thank for that”
“It’s a potentially misleading debate, however. The supposed narrowing of the curriculum is concerned with subject choices in the senior phase. Setting aside arguments about the extent to which this is happening, there’s a basic flaw in the reasoning: by looking only at subject choices – largely at National 5 and Higher – it misses what appears to be a widening of the curriculum in other ways.
“This fixation with exams and academic subjects – plus ça change – ignores the fact that, in many schools, there is now a much richer range of opportunities. Last week, for example, I visited a secondary with a spaghetti junction of pathways for its senior pupils – where apprenticeships and college courses truly do have “parity of esteem” with university, to use the jargon – and a determination to bend the curriculum to individual aspirations. If that means pupils going to another school for a certain Advanced Higher or spending some of the week in college, or teachers setting up a work placement with an employer they’ve not dealt with before, then the school’s attitude is, so be it.”
“Developing the Young Workforce may be an equally uninspiring, chosen-by-committee title. But whereas CfE is typically viewed as falling short, the reaction to DYW – a far newer kid on the block – feels very different. Visiting schools, I’ve been struck by how often it’s cited as a positive influence, a driver of cultural change that has gone beyond its initial promise to boost vocational education. For example, one special school depute head said that, while she wasn’t sure those behind DYW were really thinking of her sector, it was a “game-changer”, helping to create work and training opportunities for school-leavers with complex needs.”
Head teachers and the curriculum
“We are free to shape the curriculum,’ say Scottish heads”
“An investigation into whether Scottish headteachers have the freedom to tailor their school’s curriculum to the needs of their pupils has found that “almost all” heads believe they have that power.”
“It adds that heads were, in most cases, “well supported” by their local authorities and “empowered to work with staff, pupils, parents and wider partners to design learner pathways which best suit the needs of their local community”.
“It adds: “Most are taking account of Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) to deliver a curriculum which includes an understanding of the world of work and vocational pathways. However, there continues to be a need to increase progress in delivering DYW priorities and ensure that pupils and parents are aware of the range of vocational options and pathways available.”
I have added links to the full articles but free registration is required for full access: