Skills for Work Case Study National 5 Creative Industries Northfield Academy, Aberdeen


Northfield Academy in the north west of Aberdeen offers Skills for Work Creative Industries at SCQF level 5 to pupils in S4 to S6. There is often a wide range of abilities between candidates, and they bring varied experiences of different creative specialisms.

In 2018/19, Skills for Work candidates collaborated in the development of a mental health awareness session for S1 and S2 classes. The project allowed the candidates to develop a number of different skills including art, design, graphics, photography, script writing, communication and working with others. The candidates evidence was presented in an e-portfolio.

The brief was very open to:

An example of a proposal related to mental health awarenessThe team were asked to submit a proposal in any format, but there was an expectation that there would be a multimedia element to the proposal and that it would be carefully planned.

Through participation in the Skills for Work qualification, candidates were able to identify and develop their strengths while also developing new skills and interests through peer learning and support in this successful inter-disciplinary project. The inter-disciplinary nature of the project was important because creative professionals rarely work in isolation; copywriters work with designers who might engage with photographers and in a commercial context, everyone must be aware of the clients perspective.

One of the advantages of the Skills for Work award is its flexibility. It can be applied in a wide range of contexts and can suit any creative disciplines, allowing centres to potentially cater for a range of interests within one cohort while always fore-fronting the workplace skills at the heart of the award.


One of the reasons that Northfield Academys delivery is worthy of this case study is their decision to migrate the candidate evidence to digital platforms. While the worksheets are a reliable mechanism for recording candidate evidence and are a useful aid to standardisation, there was a recognition that using a digital approach allowed candidates more freedom in their planning and creativity. It also helped them develop the 21st century skills required for initial engagement in the job market.

The flexibility of using a digital platform meant that each of the candidates could take their own unique approach through the groupwork activity responding to the needs of the project and each other as they progressed towards the date of their mental health awareness session.


The small team, 10 candidates in total from across S4 to S6, came up with a wide range of ambitious ideas before eventually settling on a series of interactive workshops in the schools suite of general purpose rooms. Using a free floor planning application, they laid out a number of activities, including:

Trees for worry artworkOnce the initial plans were developed, the group visited the space and identified that the pillars in the room represented a creative opportunity and became trees of worry, each one decorated to represent a season. S1 and S2 learners were invited to add individual leaves or frost to represent such issues as the impact of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Plans were drawn up for the 240 pupils in S1 and S2 to access the space and activities two or three classes at a time. As the younger pupils circulated through the different spaces, the Skills for Work candidates were on hand with mobile phones and iPads to ensure that everything ran to their pre-defined schedule.

The use of an e-portfolio required investing time and resources. Staff involved in the Skills for Work programme completed the Google Educator level 2 certification, which requires approximately six hours of staff development. Each of the candidates had a Chromebook so they could access slide decks and other documents in the class and their own Google Drives.

Partnership arrangements

There were a number of external and internal stakeholders involved.

To develop the mental health resources, the candidates engaged with local mental health charities and visited the team providing school nurse services at the central Health Village in Aberdeen. Internally, the Depute Head Teacher and Head Teacher acted as the client or commissioner and signed-off on the project.

Benefits for learners and centres

Desk with worksheets on topThe fundamental benefit of this approach is the flexibility in how the candidates can work together and respond to the challenge set by the centre. Once the approach was agreed and individual roles in the project were established, candidates could access various resources to develop skills in a range of different disciplines. The ability to share content in real time meant that the relationships the candidates developed in the project mirrored how those with different disciplines, such as copywriters and designers, might collaborate in professional practice.

The teaching team were enthusiastic about the opportunities opened by the Skills for Work curriculum. They were aware of the types of activities that motivated and engaged their learners and saw the flexibility offered by the award in the potential to gather evidence in a range of different ways.

Using Glow initially, then Google Drive and Google Classroom, the students were afforded the opportunity to use technology that aided their learning and would be of benefit in future workplaces.

External verification praised the rigorous tracking of candidate progress that was facilitated by embracing this e-portfolio system. The development of skills in digital communication was of general value as these skills are also required in engaging in the modern job market and the Skills for Work students were well placed to continue their studies during COVID-19 lockdown.

Team meetings around the Creative Process unit took place in digitally equipped workspaces. Leadership and support roles developed as the project progressed. Although initially lacking confidence, an S5 girl reflecting on her skills through Outcome 3 of Creative Industries: An Introduction, realised she had the capacity to provide the leadership required to make the project a success. As the group discussed how the key points of the project should proceed, these agreements were recorded on screen as action points which could be reviewed as the team progressed towards the event. The team were able to work collaboratively, authoring a complex schedule using an online suite of productivity applications.

There were surprise benefits which included the ease with which content could be translated online where English was not the candidates first language. The approach proved resilient to the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown. Where much learning was immediately more challenging, the cloud-based materials were accessible to everybody involved.

Desk with leafletsA large amount of digital content was stored using a combination of class, group and individual drives. Had all content been physically stored in different locations, the challenge of assessment and verification would have been significant. The external verifier praised the ease with which all were able to access shared documents and recordings which evidenced their high quality performance. The candidates were aware of their role in the assessment process and understood how and why they were being assessed.

Future delivery plans

The centre continues to deliver the award using a flexible digital student-based model. Though the brief changes each year, candidates and their teachers still use a range of online tools. The candidates present their ideas using Google slides and each has a digital jotter in the same format. Assessors and internal verifiers refer to a colour coded Google Sheet which tracks students progress through the award as red, amber, or green.

As new digital solutions are developed each year, the National Assessment Bank (NABs) material remain at the heart of the process; stored digitally and easily accessible by every member of the teaching team, they remain an essential reference in assessment decisions. The NABs were also the reference point to allow the creation of the group progress sheet outlined above.

Advice to other centres

Using digital tools to generate and organise assessment evidence meant that the students developed impressive skills for work in an open and inspirational multi- disciplinary project which, according to the external verifier who visited the centre, allowed the young people to fly with confidence and creativity.

This self-direction was a motivating factor as the candidates felt in control of the project and the work they contributed towards it. They recognised that both their online collaboration and development of creative digital assets meant they were developing the kind of 21st century skills of self-management, social intelligence and innovation required for the modern workplace. Their confidence grew as they worked their way through the project together.

The Creative Process unit required the candidates to work together in presenting their ideas for the project. The digital approach to the management and assessment of the project allowed the candidates to develop different skills as the event demanded them. These included music performance, music technology, drama performance, lighting, photography and graphic design. Candidates were able to draw upon the productivity applications, tools, and reference materials to develop these skills as required and drive their own progress through the Skills Development unit.