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Ibrox gets a new goal to reach for

MENTION Ibrox to Glaswegians and they are likely to think of centre-backs rather than learning centres and internationalists rather than the Internet. All this could change with the opening of Real Learning Centres in local community libraries.

The Ibrox centre is one of three established by a partnership between the city's cultural and leisure services department and Scottish Enterprise Glasgow. The other two centres are in Shettleston and Pollok. Together they form the latest stage in the drive to establish Glasgow as Britain's first "Learning City".

Within three years the new learning system will be extended to all of the city's 32 community libraries and at least 10 colleges and universities, with a target membership of 300,000 people.

More than 60 small to medium-sized enterprises have already signed up to bring learning opportunities to their workforces.

Stephanie Young, director of lifelong learning for Scottish Enterprise Glasgow, described the Real Centres, with their information and communications technology, as "unique". She said: "Computers are playing a bigger and bigger part in our lives - there is nothing to fear in that. Everyone can learn and we hope to make it a family activity."

The centres will work with other community groups and service providers to open a "gateway" to community learning and skills training, as well as providing learning resources, ICT facilities and study space. The centres will promote essential skills, including numeracy, literacy and communication, with the assistance of lifelong learning teams established by the city council, Scottish Enterprise Glasgow and the Glasgow Telecolleges Network.

Each of the initial centres has up to 24 personal computers offering a wide rage of vocational and learning-based opportunities, via networked computers, printers and scanners. The centres will be linked to the 10 colleges in the Glasgow Telecolleges Network and to the Metropolitan Area Network (MAN). Through high speed ICT connections a virtual college campus will be created with electronic delivery of learning at a time, place and pace that suits the learner.

The first virtual course will be on local history, with an SQA qualification available via a link to the Mitchell Library. The course will be promoted with an eye on attracting non-learners into a learning environment and will be followed later in the year with the launch of a Virtual Food College.

Among the first learning opportunities at the Ibrox centre will be a robot-building programme (using Lego Robolab technology) during the summer holidays. Delivered by the council's children's library team, it is aimed at raising computer skills and introducing various aspects of science.

Ms Young said the key to the venture was that by logging on to the Real network people start to learn straight away: "There is no limit to that learning. Students will be able to study up to degree level through Real Centres, while others will have different interests."

Shazia Patel, a 17-year-old student who does not have a computer at home, said:

"Real lets me explore the Internet for as much information as I need at my local library. What's more, all the books I need are here as well."

Elaine Clark, a mother of three, says that Real is ideal to gain access to computer facilities while her children are at school. "It gives me better understanding of my children's school work as well as providing me with the opportunity to learn new skills."

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