IT helped a teenager from one of Scotland’s most deprived areas to secure a place at Cambridge University. Now, a scheme that aims to reduce educational inequalities could help thousands more pupils fulfil their potential.

The pandemic may have caused wide-spread disruption to education but Glasgow Caledonian University says the introduction of blended learning has created an opportunity to expand the initiative that benefited Rachel Thomson, from Govan, Glasgow.

The 17-year-old earned a coveted place at Cambridge this year to study economics after being awarded three A  grades in history, mathematics and chemistry at Advanced Higher level. 

The teenager was among the success stories to emerge from the latest cohort of GCU’s Advanced Higher Hub, which aims to widen opportunities for pupils with limited access to the qualification in subjects required for high-demand undergraduate courses, such as medicine  and dentistry.

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GCU was the first university in Scotland to employ teachers to deliver nine advanced highers in subjects including maths, English, biology, physics and chemistry to pupils in and around Glasgow. 

The scheme is now to be extended to pupils across Scotland through a partnership with E-Sgoil, which was launched in 2016 to offer online support to pupils in the Western Isles but now assists teenagers across the country.

From its base in Stornoway, registered teachers deliver online lessons to pupils throughout Scotland.

Following discussions with Education Scotland, e-Sgoil is now working with  GCU to provide after-school study support sessions in a range of Advanced Higher subjects, complementing its existing work in National 5 and Higher tutoring.

While it is currently only assisting pupils who are already studying those subjects in Advanced Higher, the hope is it will eventually be extended to full lessons for teenagers who do not have access to courses at their school.

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Eleanor Wilson, who heads up the scheme, said: “This year the Hub is delivering national qualifications via blended learning, further expanding on the added value and university experience we offer to prepare pupils for their next steps.

“We noticed there was a gap in e-Sgoil’s provision as its timetable did not include many Advanced Higher study support options. 

“We approached it to enquire if we could add to its provision. 

“So we are delighted to expand our Advanced Higher learning provision to a wider audience and are very excited to work with pupils nationally, helping to support this excellent addition to the national e-learning offer.”

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Advanced Highers were introduced in 2001 to replace the Certificate of Sixth Year Studies and are essentially the equivalent of the first year of university in that particular subject. They now attract more UCAS tariff points than A-Levels at the same grades.

However, research has found a performance gap between private and state schools with the former generally attaining higher results.

The universities of Oxford and Cambridge typically ask for four As at Higher level, plus three at Advanced Higher level, in their entry requirements. GCU’s bridging programme is run in partnership with Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Funding Council.

Angus Maclennan, head teacher of e-Sgoil, said the scheme is currently dealing with 6,000 course requests from pupils across all 32 of Scotland’s local authorities and said blended learning had created an unexpected opportunity to improve attainment.

He added “We are delighted to expand the range of courses we are able to offer. This type of collaboration makes provision for pupils across Scotland more comprehensive, accessible and equitable.”