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Developing a regional approach to fair access

Published: 21/05/2015

Senior Policy Adviser, David Bass, reflects on recent developments in access and equality policy in Scotland and looks forward to our event in June.

On 29 June, ECU is hosting an event bringing together sector agencies and college senior managers to discuss approaches to achieving the equality aspects of the Developing the Young Workforce Strategy (DYW). One question we’ll focus on is how we support ambition to post-16 education for every child, regardless of who they are, and how increased collaboration could help overcome particularly challenging barriers.

DYW cites the Wood Commission report and identifies key barriers for equality groups that affect access to college and employability opportunities (such as Modern Apprenticeships):

  • Gender stereotyping
  • Narrower pathways for black and minority ethnic learners
  • Difficult transitions for disabled people

The strategy sets targets and actions for schools, colleges, the Scottish Funding Council and Skills Development Scotland to address these barriers. There is strong evidence these barriers also apply to access to university, meaning the strategy has implications across post-16 education.

From my perspective, given the increasing focus and amount of work being undertaken by institutions across the sector, this is a great opportunity to try to develop a comprehensive, collaborative model for supporting ambition and access to post-16 education more broadly.  

For the past nine months, we’ve been working with universities in Scotland to identify and understand barriers to access for certain groups and subjects, and each of the barriers identified in DYW has featured in this work. At a social mobility conference at the University of Strathclyde this month, we talked about how we could take this project forward in the next academic year. There was a lot of interest from universities in working with colleges, schools and others in a regional model, focused on joint approaches to alleviating common barriers to access, and this seems like it fits the aims and ethos of DYW as well.

At the event on the 29 June, my colleague Gemma Tracey and I will be hosting a workshop looking at the feasibility of this ‘regional’ project model. We hope to hear from institutions about what this should look like. What might be effective? Who should be involved? I’m hoping university, college, school, and SDS staff participate in this discussion, and would strongly encourage anyone interested in equality and access to post-16 education to get involved. What might be effective? Who should be involved? I’m hoping university, college, school, and SDS staff participate in this discussion, and would strongly encourage anyone interested in equality and access to post-16 education to get involved.

Book your place on the event here.