FOCUS West (Focus On College and University Study – West of Scotland) is the largest division in Scotland of the national Schools for Higher Education Programme. Its work involves supporting more pupils into Higher Education, whether this is direct to university, or going to college first to study for a Higher National Qualification. FOCUS West, though its Top-Up Programme, has the capacity to permit adjusted university offers to pupils at the secondary schools from which it operates. It works on behalf of ALL universities and colleges in the west of Scotland and its work is therefore not connected to one university or one college, which means that it has a helpful, balanced overview of all suitable courses, not just those that are offered by one particular institution. All subject areas come under this programme, from medicine to creative industries (and everything in between), i.e. all subject areas offered at degree and sub-degree level. In addition to this, it provides a full programme of activities for schools which are specifically designed to move more pupils into Higher Education. This begins in the Curriculum for Excellence’s General Phase (Third and Fourth Levels; year groups S3 and S4) but is particularly concentrated on the Senior Phase (year groups S5 and S6).
FOCUS West aims not only to inform pupils about the benefits of Higher Education but also to support them on their route in getting there (both academically and in supporting decision-making, choices and pathways).
The FOCUS West Programme was the first collaborative Access Programme in the west of Scotland to use student mentors and tutors to deliver its activities and the first to connect pupils with a systematic plan of visits to university and college campuses. FOCUS West works for west of Scotland schools but is also connected into larger networks across the UK and Europe, so that the programme has a good knowledge of access to Higher Education beyond its geographical area.
All activities are delivered by colleges and universities in the west of Scotland, along with trained student tutors and mentors who are themselves studying at university and college. The programme’s activities encourage pupils to develop key skills which will benefit them whichever route they decide to take after school. The programme has been designed by experts in the field who have considerable experience of delivering activities with schools.
From its initial incarnation as the GOALS Project over a decade ago, and now as FOCUS West, it has moved thousands of pupils to university and to degree-level work in college and is now the longest-running, largest and most-established access programme for pupils in the west of Scotland. Its ability to give adjusted university offers to pupils makes it unique in Scotland.
Delivered by: The FOCUS West Team, which has staff in each of the six universities/ Higher Education Institutions in the west of Scotland, i.e. the University of Glasgow (Top-Up Programme – for S5/6 pupils), the University of Strathclyde (S3 Campus Days and S4 Focus on Four), Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of the West of Scotland (Routes for All Programme – for S5/6 pupils), the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (Entry to the Creative Industries) and the Glasgow School of Art (Portfolio Development Programme). The FOCUS West team often deliver the programme together with trained student tutors and mentors from colleges and universities in the west of Scotland, all of whom have personal and direct experience of the benefits and challenges of going to university and college. Many of the trained student tutors and mentors have themselves attended the schools that we are active in and have moved on to successful study in Higher Education. They are therefore excellent role models of what pupils can achieve.
Pupils both within the Curriculum for Excellence’s General Phase at Third and Fourth Levels (i.e. year groups S3 and S4) and pupils within the Curriculum for Excellence’s Senior Phase (S5 and S6) who attend schools that have a Higher Education progression rate that is below the national average.
The Programme Consists of:
S3 Campus Days
This involves a two-day visit to a university or college college campus – an activity we have been delivering since 2000. Pupils undertake unique and exciting learning challenges, which not only provide a good insight into life at university but also help to map out future career opportunities within the context of Higher Education and the world of work. The Campus Days team, along with trained student mentors, use challenge-based activities, incorporating practical problem-solving, time management and learning mindsets, in addition to all-important study skills techniques, as part of this experience.
S4 FOCUS on 4
This is a two-day experience at a university campus, which aims to improve study and communication skills needed for entry to Higher Education. It is specifically designed for pupils before they begin preparing for National Qualifications.
S5/6 Top-Up Programme
This programme is designed for pupils in the Senior Phase who would like to progress after school directly to university study. Successful completion of Top-Up means that university offers can be adjusted by up to two grades at Higher. Highly-trained postgraduate students deliver a programme that introduces key skills needed for successful study at Higher Education level, including note-taking, decision-making, planning and essay-writing. This element develops critical, conceptual thinking and independent learning and supports S5/6 pupils throughout the UCAS application process.
S5/6 Routes For All
Aimed at S5/6, this element of FOCUS West is aimed at pupils who would like to progress after school to Higher Education but would be more likely to enter via a college-based HNC/D course. Routes for All is a programme that concentrates on study skills, and preparation for examinations, courses and careers. Our staff provide advice on applications, personal statements and interview skills and help to focus pupils on the practical requirements for progression to Higher National courses.
S5/6 Portfolio Development
This specialist element provides guidance for pupils likely to progress to art and design/ creative industry courses in Art at a college, a higher education institution, or an art school. Tutors and existing students at the Glasgow School of Art assist pupils with art/design portfolios needed for admission.
S5/6 Entry to the Creative Industries
This specialist element is designed for pupils intending to study subjects such as music, drama, dance, and technical and production arts at either college, a higher education institution or a specialist conservatoire. It provides essential insight into what is required at auditions for Higher Education study for these specialist courses. Delivered by staff from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, this element of FOCUS West also helps prepare pupils for admission interviews.
Focus on Families
This work promotes and develops awareness of transition from school to post-school higher education routes with parents/ carers of pupils in the FOCUS West Programme.
This area of work can offer impartial information, advice and guidance on the costs of becoming a student, grants and bursaries and the Student Awards system.
Support materials are provided to families through representation at Parents’ Evenings and other events for parents.