Scotland’s independent think tank
Scotland’s independent think tank

Enhancing education through collaboration: A call for a unified approach

Jess Power

Deep down, every teacher (I hope) is driven by the same mission: to ignite a passion for learning in young minds and guide them towards success. Scottish education, with its rich history, has long aimed – though not always perfectly realised – to advance society by providing a robust educational foundation for all.

In today’s digital age, this mission is more relevant than ever. The modern world demands fluency in technology, and Computing Science education is key to meeting this demand. By equipping pupils with essential problem-solving, logical thinking, and technical skills, Computing Science prepares them to navigate the complexities of the digital revolution and emerging AI era. However, a persistent shortage of qualified teachers often impedes access to this vital subject, particularly at Higher and Advanced Higher levels.

A potential solution is improved cooperation between independent and public schools. There is no need to reinvent the wheel; rather, public and independent schools should be actively sharing resources and expertise to meet the needs of all pupils. Prioritising cooperation over competition allows schools to create a more equitable and effective educational landscape.

I am privileged to be a part of one such collaboration as Head of RGC Online, the digital extension of Robert Gordon’s College in partnering with state schools across Scotland. RGC Online emerged from our collective commitment to enhancing subject accessibility, particularly following a successful pivot to online learning during the pandemic. Our partnerships include organisations like ABZ Campus, a network of secondary schools in Aberdeen. With RGC Online, pupils have the opportunity to learn via live online lessons for Higher Computing Science, scheduled outside their regular school hours. This approach not only overcomes timetabling barriers but also ensures access to subjects that might otherwise be inaccessible. There are also plans underway to expand the subject offerings, with Higher Applications of Mathematics launching in 2024/2025, followed by additional subjects in the subsequent years.

The partnership has delivered great success such as the 100% AB pass rate attained by its inaugural 2022/2023 cohort. Many of those pupils have gone on to university programmes in computing and technology, opportunities they would not have had access to without achieving Higher Computing Science qualifications.

Such effective teaching collaborations ensure that pupils gain access to specialised subjects and benefit from the expertise of educators, reaching a wider audience than traditional local teaching might allow. In addition, teachers reap the rewards of valuable professional development opportunities fostered through collaborative efforts and the exchange of innovative pedagogical approaches.

Aberdeen’s success story can serve as a blueprint for Scotland to build a sustainable cooperative framework that ensures all pupils have access to a diverse range of educational opportunities. An online delivery model, where passionate and experienced educators reach an audience, unbound by geography, not only addresses teacher shortages in critical subjects like Computing Science but also leverages a strength traditionally seen in the independent sector: the ability to offer a broad range of subjects. By utilising the transformative power of technology for digital instruction, this model can provide access to a wider range of subjects, ensuring that all young people have the opportunity to explore diverse areas of study and benefit from a rich, well-rounded education.

Other excellent examples of partnerships between independent and state schools across Scotland are making similar positive impacts. George Watson’s College in Edinburgh has been supporting access to Mandarin language instruction across schools in the area. The Futures Institute at Dollar Academy (FIDA) provides an online learning platform rooted in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and offers pupils access to subjects such as Higher Politics which they might not be able to study in their own school. 

By fostering a culture of collaboration and leveraging the power of technology in digital instruction, Scottish education can rise to meet the challenges of the digital age. It is through partnership and cooperation that we can ensure every pupil has the chance to achieve their full potential, building a more equitable and dynamic educational landscape where every young mind is equipped and inspired to shape the future.

Jess Power is Head of Robert Gordon College Online

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