Young Applicants in Schools Scheme (YASS)


The Open University’s Young Applicants in Schools and Colleges Scheme (or YASS for short) enables academically gifted students in their final two years of school to study a wide range of undergraduate modules at first-year level alongside their Highers and Advanced Highers.

The scheme has only recently been opened up to Scottish schools but I feel it will provide a wonderful opportunity for some of our more able senior students. 

Why should East Lothian schools get involved?

For students

The scheme gives students the opportunity to study at university level, encourages independent learning, builds confidence and has the added bonus of differentiating them from other students when it comes to applying to traditional universities. 

For teachers

The scheme adds breadth and depth to the school curriculum, enriches the academic profile and develops learning skills.


  • There are early indications that students who have studied with The Open University while at school are more likely to succeed at university studies.
  • Their OU study differentiates them from other candidates on their UCAS application and admissions officers view such study very positively – particularly for the more competitive subjects such as medicine.
  • There are very clear benefits in terms of study skills, personal organisation (the ability to plan ahead and meet deadlines) and independent learning.
  • Students encounter new subject areas and/or approach familiar subject areas from a different standpoint.
  • Those young students who decide to continue their university studies with The Open University can count the module they have passed while at school towards their degree.
  • Most young students studying with The Open University acknowledge their increase in self-confidence.
  • The competing demands of school and Open University study (together with, in many instances, part-time jobs) results in the development of a strategic approach to learning which will stand them in good stead in the future.

All of the courses are equivalent to Advanced Higher level. YASS might provide another avenue for schools  to consider when creating their options for senior students.

Open Learn

LearningSpace Home

I attended the National Education conference on Thursday. The event was organised by the General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS).

I’ll make a few posts on some of the things I learned during the day and the first of these will relate to the OpenLearn website which gives free access to Open University course materials.  By accessing site you will find hundreds of free study units, each with a discussion forum.  You can study independently at your own pace or join a group and use the free learning tools to work with others.

At a time when teachers are looking for new resources to support student learning and don’t have the time to make up the resources themselves then it’s incumbent upon us as managers to identify other cources of support.

There’s even a nice section on Education which teachers can use for their personal development.

The site uses Moodle to create the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)

Measuring Learning

When I was out in New Zealand I came across their equivalent of our Scottish Qualifications Authority.  The NZQA are in many ways very similar to our own awarding authority but I did come across one distinct difference which may have some significance for a Curriculum for Excellence.

The New Zealand system uses a system of levels and credit points.  In much the same way as our SCQF uses levels and credit points.  The main difference appears to be that the New Zealand points system directly relates to university entrance , whereas we have to translate our courses into UCAS points.  In other words the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) system is focused upon allowing comparison to made between qualifications, and doesn’t give any indication of the extent to which learning outcomes might have been met by a learner. For example, all Higher Courses are awarded 32 SCQF credit points, regardless of whether a student gains a D or a A.

In New Zealand a school can select from a range of Units, each of which might have a different number of credit points attached, depending upon the standard required.  In addition to the credit points available for completing the unit successfully a student can gain additional recognition by achieving a unit with “Merit” or “Excellence”.  If a student achieves a certain number of Credit points with Merit or excellence at a certain level then their National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA)  will record that this has been achieved with Merit.  The following is lifted for the advice to Parents on the NZQA website.g

level 1
  When you have achieved 80 credits from level 1 or higher, you have gained NCEA level 1. Eight of these credits must be from numeracy standards and eight other credits must be from literacy standards. These skills can be assessed in English or in te reo M?ori. Your teachers can tell you which standards provide the required numeracy and literacy skills.
level 2
  NCEA level 2 requires a minimum of 60 credits at level 2 or above and 20 credits at any other level. Credits can be used for more than one quali?cation; so some of your NCEA level 1 credits can count towards NCEA level 2. At level 2 there are no speci?c literacy or numeracy requirements.
level 3
  For NCEA level 3 you will need to achieve 80 credits, of which 60 must be at level 3 or above, and 20 at level 2 or above.

If you gain the required number of credits with ‘Merit’ or ‘Excellence’, your certificate will be endorsed:

  • 50 credits at Merit or Excellence – Certificate with Merit
  • 50 credits at Excellence – Certificate with Excellence

In order to get into university in New Zealand a student must satisfy the following:

  • a minimum of 42 credits at level 3 or higher on the National Qualifications Framework, including a minimum of 14 credits at level 3 or higher in each of two subjects from an approved subject list, with a further 14 credits at level 3 or higher taken from no more than two additional domains on the National Qualifications Framework or approved subjects
  • a minimum of 14 credits at level 1 or higher in Mathematics or Pangarau on the National Qualifications Framework
  • a minimum of 8 credits at level 2 or higher in English or Te Reo M?ori; 4 credits must be in Reading and 4 credits must be in Writing. The literacy credits will be selected from a schedule of approved achievement standards and unit standards.

I particularly like the way that the New Zealand system allows students to accumulate points and gives students and schools the opportunity to create their own curriculum from a set of approved units.  I spoke to one student out there who knew that he was weak in some areas but was able to compensate by being able to accumulate more points in other areas where he had strengths.

So how does this compare with our system in Scotland?

Scottish Qualifications* UCAS points

Advanced Higher Higher     Intermediate 2 Standard Grade SCQF Credit Points UCAS Tariff points
A           32 120
B           32 100
C           32 80
D A         32 72
  B         32 60
  C         32 48
            32 45
  D     A   24 42
          Band 1 24 38
        B   24 35
        C Band 2 24 28

Trying to compare SCQF credit points with UCAS tariff points is like trying to compare apples with oranges. The SCQF credit points only give an indication of the amout of learning time required – with one point translating to 10 hours.

All this came into sharp focus for me on Friday when I visited Jewel and Esk College with senior managers from all East Lothian secondary schools. In the course of a very productive day we learned how the college makes use of units of study and which enables course teams to make up courses to best suit their students – in much the same manner as in New Zealand.  The contrast with schools couldn’t really be more marked with subject departments being locked into course delivery which offers a very limited degree of flexibility and decision making for the teachers – and students.

It set us to wondering if we couldn’t begin to develop a curriculum/assessment model in our secondary schools which made much more use of units of study which had UCAS points attached to them, whilst relating to SCQF levels.

Looking to the revision of the assessment system in Scottish schools I think I’d like to see us try to emulate the best features of the New Zealand system whilst also learning fr the experience of our colleagues in Scottish colleges. 

As a starter we are going to explore the possible delivery of National Units and HNC units in our schools for the coming year.

In order to provide some strategic leverage for this change to take place in schools I’d like to move from reporting attainment from the number of Highers or standard Grades gained to the number of UCAS tariff points accumulated by each student at the end of S4, S5 and S6.

Is there a difference between upper primary and lower secondary school learning and teaching?

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As an extension of my Listen and Learn meetings I’ve arranged to meet with four primary 7 pupils (12 year olds) and four secondary first year pupils (13 year olds).  Over the next four weeks I will carry out one meeting in each of our six school clusters (secondary school and associated primary schools).

The focus of the meetings will be to explore in more depth the type of learning that children experience in upper primary school and lower secondary school.  We have recently surveyed the opinion of every P6 and S2 child in East Lothian on a range of topics.  One of the key differences was how children  perceived the extent to which they enjoyed the learning experience.  On average 84% of primary 6 children found lessons to be interesting, whilst only 52% of secondary 2 children found lessons interesting.  I wanted to drill into this in more depth to find out if the difference was due to any significant qualitative differences in what they experience or whether or not the difference was simply down to adolescence, i.e. the “Kevin effect”?

I’ll be reporting my findings to each cluster and collating any general findings at the end of the process.  I completed two meetings this week and the results have been fascinating!

E hoki ana ki te wā kāinga (homeward bound)

Lake Tekapo by you.

Lake Tekapo

I returned last week from a three week trip to New Zealand to see our son who is spending a year in Christchurch.

It was good to fulfil a lifetime’s ambition to see the country and I wasn’t disappointed.  We were overwhelmed by the hospitality and friendship we encountered – whilst the scenery was spectacular.

In the course of our visit I inevitably found out a fair about their education system and I’ll try to reflect upon some of these findings over the next few weeks.