Colleges pledge to offer 3 million more learning hours

Colleges have promised to deliver 3 million more learning hours next year, despite suffering severe budget cuts over the past few years.

In their regional outcome agreements for 2013-14, published earlier this week, the institutions also committed to targeting almost 50 per cent of their provision at 16- to 19-year-olds in a bid to support the government promise to offer every 16- to 19-year-old a place in education, work or training.

More than two-thirds of college provision will be aimed at 16- to 24-year-olds, the agreements reveal. Colleges will also offer extra full- and part-time courses for older learners.

Setting up new programmes targeting young people entering the senior phase of Curriculum for Excellence and providing Skills for Work courses for those considering leaving school were among other priorities set out by Scotland's college regions.

At Forth Valley College, for example, students of the senior phase who see college as their destination post-school but are unclear about what to study will be able to take part in short "taster activities" in a range of subjects before moving on to more specific courses.

Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire region wants to encourage participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects among schoolchildren in a bid to maintain national specialisms in areas such as engineering, oil and gas.

"As a sector, we are committed to providing an extra 3 million hours of learning than the current year, ensuring that there will be wider access to places for learners of all ages," Colleges Scotland chief executive John Henderson said.

Robin Parker, president of NUS Scotland, added: "These agreements outline some good steps forward and will continue to monitor the progress of the regionalisation process to ensure resources are going where they most needed."

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