MORE than 1,000 sixth year pupils in Scotland are currently studying for degree level modules after the number of students registered with an Open University scheme rocketed by 45 per cent in a year.
The scheme, called Young Applicants in Schools (Yass), allows high school students to study at higher education level while still at school.
Although it began as a pilot in one council region of Scotland in 2007, the number of school pupils choosing to take Open University modules has increased by almost half over the past year.
However, the project, which is currently backed by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), could lose funding if a new source of financial backing is not found before the end of this academic year.
The sixth year pupils who take part in the scheme can take modules in a range of subjects including science, engineering, business studies, health and social care, IT and computing, arts, mathematics and sport and fitness. Each module offered through Yass is at level 1, equivalent to SCQF Level 7 and the same as the first year at a traditional university.
Around 40 per cent of Scottish secondary schools have had students who have taken part in the scheme, which is particularly attractive to schools in remote and rural areas which have limited numbers staying on to S6 and therefore encounter difficulties in providing breadth of subject choice for their pupils.
Katie Burke, deputy head teacher at Caldervale High School in Airdrie, supports 19 students from her school taking part in the modules this year. The number has almost doubled from the number of pupils who took part three years ago when the school first joined the scheme.
She said: “Quite a lot of our students are from backgrounds of multiple deprivation which means they may be from families with two or three generations of unemployment and they are likely to be the first in their family to think about going to university. Doing the Yass modules gives them a confidence and a recognition in their own ability that they are able to study at a university level.”
She added: “The vast majority of the students in the past who have participated in Yass have ended up going on to university, which is fantastic.”
Susan Stewart, director of the Open University in Scotland, said: “Yass allows students to build their confidence and self-esteem, preparing them for some of the challenges they’ll face if they choose to go on to university or college after school. They can study at their own pace, in familiar surroundings and with the support of teachers they know very well.”
She added: “The huge increase in students and schools participating in the scheme shows that pupils and teachers all over Scotland really see the value of this flexible and innovative approach to learning.”
The SFC said new funding allocation would be considered in February.
Among the pupils from Caldervale school is Zilke Bleyl who is studying the Yass module ‘Molecules, Medicine and Drugs: A Chemical Story’.
She said: “I have a strong desire to study medicine at university. I work on my Yass module in the school library for around five hours per week. Yass shows I can study independently, work within deadlines and prepare for assessments and has increased my confidence in preparing for university.”
Another pupil, Jordyn Murray, is studying Yass module ‘An Introduction to Law in Contemporary Scotland’
“I chose this module because I wanted an insight into university study,” he said. “I spend time both in school and at home working on my Yass module. It has helped me prepare in terms of independent study, as it is very different from the way courses are taught in school. Taking a Yass module has shown my dedication and that I will be able to cope with university level work.”