Renfrew High pupils experience work placement at SQA

Pictured with Kerry McMillan from SQA, and Renfrew High School Teacher, Michael O’Malley, are: Eilidh McNeil, Ewan McGivern, Penny McNamara, Rachel Craig, Josh Kirk, Holly McDougall, Alanna Chan, Lewis Mullen, and Leighton McKenna.

A group of S3 pupils from Renfrew High School have been given the chance to suggest improvements to important exam guidance information while on a work experience placement at the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

The pupils, all aged 14, were tasked to review two key SQA documents – Your Coursework, and Your Exams – which provide over 140,000 school candidates a year with vital information about the assessments they will complete over the course of fourth, fifth and sixth year in secondary school.

The brief the pupils were given asked them to review all aspects of the publications; from the information they contained, to the language that was used in them, and how the documents were designed and presented. They were also asked to suggest how the information could be made more useful and what could make the documents more likely to be read by young people.

Teacher Caroline McColl, who organised the placement said: “We wanted to give the pupils as realistic an experience of starting at a new job as possible. They received an induction session as any new start at SQA would, then they were asked to take on a project and develop ideas as to how to improve the two documents. The pupils were split into two groups and asked to get on with the tasks they were given and report back their suggestions at the end of the placement.”

Kerry McMillan, Senior Communications Manager at SQA, said: “We wanted to review these publications, but in a meaningful way that sought the views of the young people they are meant for. So we were delighted when the school asked us to take part in their Developing Young Workforce initiative where pupils visit the workplace and take part in real projects. The nine pupils we hosted over the two days were able to look at the activities we gave them, research the issues they found, and present their findings and recommendations.”

Pupil Josh Kirk, said: “It was a really good couple of days. We didn’t know much about the placement, only that we had to make our own way into Glasgow to the address we were given and be there for a certain time. Everyone we met was really friendly, and it was good to be asked our opinions.”

Rachel Craig was surprised to find out that she would be working at SQA. Rachel said: “I didn’t expect to be working at SQA, all I thought they did was mark exams. I was nervous when we had to present our suggestions, but everyone thought we had some good ideas, and the SQA staff were really interested in our own experiences, and what we had to say.”

Renfrew High School Head Teacher Billy Burke, added: “This has been a really valuable experience for our young people. This Business Project has given them the opportunity to collaborate effectively in a team, manage their own time and resources, and conduct and present research that supports their findings.

“The fact this is happening on live publications, rather than just practice documents, makes the whole experience all the more worthwhile. The pupils have made a valid contribution and I look forward to seeing how their views and findings will be taken forward.”

Kerry concluded, “I’d like to thank all the pupils involved – they have given us some really useful feedback. They have challenged the way we do things, and asked us to consider better ways to reach out to them and their peer-group going forward. We need to consider how we engage with young people, and find the right methods that best suit them.”