Council plans schools link-up

East Renfrewshire could be the latest part of the country to have a further education presence, depending on the outcome of a feasibility study initiated by the local authority.

The council has agreed to a pound;20,000 three-month study by consultants from DTZ Pieda to look at the potential for a college. It would be planned for Barrhead where the council has major regeneration plans, but would serve the whole council area.

Jim Fletcher, leader of East Renfrewshire Council and its former education convener, said the study would look at courses, student numbers, building costs and the potential of the project. "We need solid data and information to allow a decision to be arrived at," Mr Fletcher said.

East Renfrewshire's high-performing schools send almost half of their leavers to HE. By contrast, only 12 per cent went on to full-time FE in 2003-04 and another 1 per cent chose training programmes, well below the national averages of 21 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.

A number of existing colleges already operate in the area, including Reid Kerr in Paisley which has a learning centre in Barrhead High. Vocational courses for fourth-year pupils are taken at Cardonald and Langside in Glasgow, but the council feels it might get a better response if there was a local FE facility.

The Scottish Executive's policy to forge closer links between schools and colleges has given the move added impetus.

If the plan goes ahead, transport links would be laid on so that the college is not just seen as serving deprived communities.

Many colleges have opened up outreach centres to bring further education to communities and workplaces without any FE - to the point where Scotland's 46 colleges now provide learning at more than 4,000 sites.

But East Renfrewshire will have one of the comparatively few instances of stand-alone colleges - if one emerges.

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