College vows to reach out to poor areas

Ten per cent of Edinburgh College teaching is directed to students from deproved areas. Picture: Toby Williams

Ten per cent of Edinburgh College teaching is directed to students from deproved areas. Picture: Toby Williams

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EDINBURGH College has promised to attract more students from the poorest backgrounds as new figures reveal rival institutions are teaching more people from deprived areas.

MSPs on Holyrood’s public audit committee will today be shown statistics revealing the proportion of students taken by colleges from the poorest ten per cent of young people.

The figures, compiled by the Scottish Funding Council, show 16 out of Scotland’s 27 colleges devote less than ten per cent of their teaching to those from the poorest backgrounds.

The Conservatives argue that for college populations to be truly representative of society, at least ten per cent of teaching should be directed at those from the ten per cent most impoverished areas.

Colleges in Aberdeen, the Borders, Fife, the Highlands and West Lothian all fail to make the ten per cent threshold.

Edinburgh College manages to direct 10.2 per cent of its teaching to the poorest, but is outperformed by colleges in Glasgow, Ayrshire and South Lanarkshire.

Edinburgh College principal Annette Bruton said her establishment was meeting targets, but wanted to do more.

She said: “We’re meeting targets in providing access to college for the most deprived people in our society and it’s thanks to the hard work of our staff in getting out into the communities and opening more and more people’s eyes to the possibilities of education.

“We’re not complacent, though, and we know we can strive to continue to widen access to more people. We’re committed to achieving this.

“We put a lot of resource into widening access and make the most of partnerships with the public, private and charity sectors to offer entry-level and employability programmes within deprived areas themselves.

“We’ve actually managed to increase the number of outreach centres we offer courses at from 39 in 2014/15 to 46 this year, and we’ve seen good progress with innovative projects such as the Prince’s Trust, Access to Industry and Street Soccer Scotland.

“With the financial constraints further education has seen over the last few years, I’m very proud of that.

“To maintain this, to build on it and to make sure as a country we’re not letting talented people who deserve an opportunity fall through the cracks, however, the college sector does need further support.”

The figures were highlighted by the Scottish Conservatives, who claimed the SNP government was failing to close the education attainment gap between the rich and poor.

Scottish Conservative young people spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “Right across Scotland, nothing like enough students from the poorest backgrounds – the ones who need our help the most – are gaining entry.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The latest figures show colleges are delivering for people from the ten per cent most deprived postcode areas in Scotland.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com