Forth Valley partnership sees pupils gain Police Studies qualification

Falkirk school pupils are getting an early taste of life in the police thanks to a unique partnership between Forth Valley College, Graeme High School, Larbert High School, and Police Scotland.

The Falkirk teenagers are the first in Scotland to work towards a new Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Police Studies. The qualification was created to provide 5th and 6th year pupils interested in joining the police with the opportunity to work towards a qualification whilst gaining hands on work experience.

SQA supported Forth Valley College in the development of the HNC, which launched in 2016. With lessons taking place at the college, the first intake of pupils to the two year course have gained an insight into post-school learning. They have also seen first-hand what life as a new recruit to the police is like, through visits to the Scottish Police College at Tulliallan.

Lesley Carroll, Headteacher at Falkirk’s Graeme High School, believes the students benefit greatly from their visits to Tulliallan. She says: “They love that type of activity as it brings their learning to life. We’re trying to contextualise their learning so it makes sense to them, and this really motivates them.”

Larbert High School pupil Sarah McDuff, who is in the second year of the HNC, agrees. She says: “I’ve gained a huge amount of experience from it. If I was to go for an interview for the police I could say that I’ve talked to police officers and I know the role that I’ve got to play if I was successful.”

SQA is recognising the partnerships behind the HNC Police Studies as part of its support of the Year of Young People. The two initiatives share common goals, namely to empower Scotland’s youth and to celebrate their successes.

SQA first highlighted the Falkirk based partnership at their 2017 Star Awards, which celebrate excellence in learning and teaching. At the ceremony the project was Highly Commended in the Partnership of the Year category.

As part of the HNC, pupils are getting to sample a range of subjects, including Law, Criminology and Sociology. Student Jonathan McKendry says that this makes the course worthwhile, even if you choose not to join the police. He explains: “It’s a great pathway no matter what you end up doing. It opens up so many opportunities no matter what you’re interested in – so get it taken!”

John Barclay, Lecturer in Police Studies at Forth Valley College, says lessons promote student discussion. He says: “Their development over the course of the two years is incredible. Their interpersonal skills have developed massively.”

He adds: “Getting an HNC in school is a significant achievement for any pupil and it will look impressive to any potential employer.”

According to Superintendent Chris Stones, Head of Training Delivery at Police Scotland, the benefits of the HNC extend into the local community. He says: “The age group involved can be hard for us to reach in communities. This was a real opportunity for us to demystify what we do and help make us more approachable.

Janice Anderson, SQA Regional Manager, says that it is exciting to see partnerships form which allow new SQA qualifications to be delivered in innovative ways. She says: “The HNC Police Studies course is a shining example of an excellent partnership, with those involved united by the admirable aim of creating new learning opportunities for Falkirk’s young people. Designing this SQA qualification in partnership has ensured it meets the needs of Police Scotland, the students, and the wider community.”

Application numbers for the second intake to the HNC Police Studies suggest the course is proving popular with pupils. It is hoped that this success will encourage schools in other regions to offer the course.