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Special support, special skills

As Adult Learners' Week draws to a close, we highlight a ground-breaking programme that is going national

A unique training programme that supports adults with special learning needs could soon be exported from the college that developed it to the rest of the country.

Borders College showcased its skills accreditation programme, said to be the only one of its kind in Scotland, to colleges and other education providers in Edinburgh in March.

Now the college hopes that other centres around Scotland will follow it in providing training that leads to basic qualifications for people who need learning support. The qualifications can help those with special learning needs find jobs and placements, boosting their independence and self-esteem.

The programme offers training solutions that could help colleges widen access even further. It offers more than 250 different units, and was specially developed by Borders College with the national awarding body, NCFE.

It sets clear standards that people must achieve and, if they do, they get entry level or level 1 qualifications. The programme also offers a progression route for learning: through it students can progress to take Scottish Vocational Qualifications.

The programme has been running at centres in the Borders, Edinburgh and the Lothians, and has seen 890 students gain qualifications in subjects ranging from budget shopping to woodwork.

Students can be assessed in supported work places, day centres, community settings or in their own homes throughout the year, and at their own pace.

Their work is verified by BC Consultants and the Open College Network, and NCFE awards their qualifications.

Helen Bottle, managing director of BC Consultants, which manages the programme for the college, said: "It can be a stepping-stone to further training, at college or in the workplace. It's a powerful way of acknowledging and rewarding the skills and abilities of a sector of the population who don't usually get much recognition."

Borders College now wants to promote the programme to other Scottish colleges and social work centres, with a view to extending the opportunities to people with special learning needs.

Ali Chapman, marketing manager from NCFE, said: "The skills accreditation programme offers continuous support, training and guidance. Students are assessed in units of their choice and they build up a portfolio to showcase their abilities."

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