The impact of the SNP Scottish Government’s college cuts to places in Scotland’s colleges – 152,000 college places since 2007 – has been exposed in new figures revealing that no progress has been made in pupils moving on to further education.
According to Scottish Government statistics released yesterday, 22nd June 2016, 23.4% of school-leavers secured a college place in 2014-15.
That compares to 24.3% the year before; and 24.6% back in 2010-11.
It equates to 12,247 pupils moving on to college last year, 12,464 the year before and 13,101 doing so in 2010-11 – a drop over five years of nearly 1,000.
Funding cuts have resulted in the loss of more than 150,000 college places, as the SNP tries to find money for free university tuition, imperilling the college secto so vital fo national skills development.
The fall in numbers, however, cannot be explained by more pupils going to university. Yesterday’s official report also shows a drop in the percentage of youngsters entering higher education, from 38.2% in 2013-14 to 36.8% last year.
The data also showed that the gap in attainment between rich and poor continues to be a problem.
Last year, while 96.3% of the least deprived youngsters went onto a ‘positive destination’, that was the case for just 86.3% from the most deprived parts.
Since the SNP came to power in 2007, there are 152,000 fewer college places, something the official opposition, the Scottish Conservatives, have reasonably described as ‘completely unacceptable’, when colleges are being asked to become more flexible and respond more effectively to the demands of their own local economies.
Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary, says: ‘The facts are clear – the SNP slashed the number of college places, and the result is fewer pupils having that option before them.
‘We should be encouraging diverse destinations for young people, because a vocational course at college can be just as valuable as a university degree.
‘Instead, because the Scottish Government wants to fund its vanity project of free university tuition, school-leavers right across Scotland are paying the price.
‘These cuts have to be reversed.
‘Employers have repeatedly told ministers that there are too many young people emerging from education with the wrong skills.
‘But these warnings have been ignored, and now it is harder than ever for a pupil to leave school and secure a place at college.’
Party politics apart, this situation is a genuine matter for national concern. The colleges sector is agreed to have been shrunk disastrously, with seriously negative consequences for individual life chances and for the economic welfare of the country.
Below is the percentage of school pupils who attended college after leaving school. The statistics are taken from the ‘follow-up’ column, which counts those still in further education in March of the academic year they started.
- 2014-15: 23.4% [12,247]
- 2013-14: 24.3% [12,464]
- 2012-13: 24.5% [12,621]
- 2011-12: 24.8% [12,303]
- 2010-11: 24.6% [13,101]