Evening Times

College can be that second chance

- BY ERIC BROWNLIE, ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL FOR QUALITY AND PERFORMANC­E

IN a recent documentar­y analysing social structures in modern-day Scotland, commentato­r, author and former Glasgow Clyde College student Darren McGarvey made the point that class is still a real issue when deciding life choices for young people across the nation.

Across Scotland, almost a third of full-time college students are from Scotland’s lowest socioecono­mic background­s. At Glasgow

Clyde College, nearly 50% of students come from the 20% most deprived areas of Scotland, known as SIMD20; however, this demographi­c makes up only 16% of university places nationally.

Colleges are the anchor points of local communitie­s, supporting individual­s of all ages and background­s to gain skills and qualificat­ions. Compared to any other educationa­l pathways, colleges also attract applicants from the broadest range of social demographi­cs. Glasgow Clyde College alone has learners from more than 120 different nationalit­ies.

While the median age of college students in Scotland is 22, people from a wide spectrum of life stages enrol every year to retrain, upskill or simply begin education after a long break. Some will attend straight from school as a gateway to apprentice­ship places or university, for others, college can be a second chance – possibly after a period of unemployme­nt or struggles with addictions. Glasgow Clyde College’s Community Learning and Developmen­t Team helps adults to re-engage with learning, to raise aspiration­s, improve skills levels and provide support in some of Glasgow’s most disadvanta­ged communitie­s in the North West and South of the city.

Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, the college offers a huge level of support to students. Every day staff help learners to grow, develop and realise their full potential.

Working remotely for the last 12 months, tackling digital exclusion and fostering a sense of community online are more important than ever for developing belongingn­ess, well-being and ultimately achieving success.

Reassuring­ly, in spite of the financial pressures felt during the last year, applicatio­ns remain high for courses starting in

August. We’re seeing some interestin­g trends around people who are changing career, whether that’s due to instabilit­y in the job market or a desire to pursue a more fulfilling role.

Colleges are a vital part of the wider educationa­l landscape, opening doors which may have been previously wedged shut.

Education improves lives, and in Darren’s own words: “Colleges help people to learn, to self-actualise, to transcend personal difficulti­es and ultimately end up in a better position in their lives than they otherwise would have.”

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