Yesterday I asked the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning (Angela Constance) how the Scottish Government was supporting colleges and other adult learning providers to improve adult literacy and numeracy, and what progress has been made in tackling poor basic skills levels in adults.
The response I received was disappointing not only for me but for all of those adults in my constituency and across Scotland who have the ambition and drive to pull themselves out of the cycle of poverty that they find themselves in.
These individuals have been given no support from their Edinburgh Government and I challenged Angela Constance to explain how a real terms cut in college budgets of £61 million, and 32,000 fewer adult learners in college than when the Government was elected in 2011 was the right way to support those who are in the greatest need.
Once again the cabinet secretary attempted to argue that using college head count figures was “misplaced” and attempted to tell me that the most meaningful measurement of college activity is the number of full-time equivalent places. However I know that adult learners are often our most vulnerable adults looking to increase their skills and improve their circumstances while they work and support themselves and their families. Part time courses are therefore often not only the most convenient form of study but in many cases the only type of study that adult learners looking to improve their skills can access.
The huge reductions we have seen in funding and available places for these courses in Scotland in my opinion shows both a lack of ambition and a lack of joined up thinking within government. I believe, as I stated in the budget debate last week, that we much be much more radical and ambitious in our thinking and must ensure that tackling poverty and getting people in to jobs is the main focus of every part of Government in Scotland. With over 12% of adults in Scotland having no formal qualifications now is the time when we should be investing in our college sector and not cutting back on the very institutions that can give our adults a chance to do better for themselves and there families.
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