Jim McColl unveils plans for vocational college

Businessman Jim McColl along with Headmaster Iain White are to open a new vocational school - Newlands Junior College in Glasgow. Picture: hemedia
Businessman Jim McColl along with Headmaster Iain White are to open a new vocational school - Newlands Junior College in Glasgow. Picture: hemedia
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One of Scotland’s wealthiest businessmen has unveiled plans for a ground-breaking vocational school to give career opportunities to young people who are not academic but have potential to be good employees.

Jim McColl, chairman and chief executive of Clyde Blowers Capital, has unveiled plans to ­establish Newlands Junior College in Glasgow’s southside.

The £1.5 million school, which will open next month, will take on 30 young people aged between 14 and 16 who “don’t engage with the current education system but who have the potential to develop in the world of work”.

Located close to where Mr McColl trained as an apprentice engineer on the site of the former Weir Pumps factory in Glasgow’s Cathcart area, the college represents a significant ­departure from the current state education model.

Spelling out the plans to education workers, politicians and business people, Mr ­McColl – who left school with just three O-grades – said: “My vision is to create a junior college for young teenagers that will give them support and opportunity to move into a successful and ­rewarding future. We’ve been working on it for the last two years. While the current academic system in secondary schools works for the majority of young people, it doesn’t work for a significant minority.

“I believe the Newlands Junior College model can supply that alternative path.

“These are young people who are as talented as any other people in schools. They have latent talent which hasn’t been fully brought out by the academic path.”

Holding independent school status, the college – which will cost £800,000 a year to run – aims to be funded using a mixture of private and public cash.

Classes will have a low pupil-to-teacher ratio, with each student being issued their own iPad to use for their studies.

The standard academic curriculum will be combined with “vocational and motivational training, with sports, nutrition and outdoor activities”.

It means English, mathematics, science and IT lessons will be held alongside vocational training ­opportunities, including engineering, hospitality, administration and creative design.

All students who attend will be guaranteed an apprenticeship or college place provided by one of the school’s industrial or educational partners.

On top of this, charity Skillforce Scotland will be running a two-year programme to develop personal and life skills.

Mr McColl said feedback would be sent to the schools from which students were picked, as well as regular reports going to parents.

Newlands principal Iain White said tailoring tuition to meet the needs of pupils would be one of the priorities of the school. He said: “We live in a changing world and it’s only ­reasonable that the education system changes to meet the needs of the 21st century.

“It will provide exciting ­opportunities for young people in the south of Glasgow that a few years ago could only be dreamt about.

“Its ethos is in line with the four key strategies of the Curriculum for Excellence, namely successful learning, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.”

Earlier this month, Mr McColl announced that his company had bought Ferguson Shipbuilders in Port Glasgow, after it had gone into administration in ­August.

The rescue package will see him invest £8 million to modernise the company and seek work in the renewables sector, as well as creating up to 300 jobs.