Garry Cameron considers how colleges can strengthen and consolidate the significant contribution they are already making to closing the attainment gap.

Currently there are a number of key policies and reforms to provide all our young people with the best education and life opportunities. A key element of the reforms is to address the large attainment gap that persists among young people from low income households and those from better off households. There have been some excellent developments and evidence based signs of progress in the sector:

  • An increase in articulation from college to university
  • Deserved recognition for the college sector in widening access
  • Developing the Young Workforce through school, college and employer partnerships
  • Key role of the sector in assisting students increase employability and individual potential
  • Continual improvement in college learning and teaching
  • Emerging regional curricula
  • Modern apprenticeships and graduate level apprenticeships
  • Enhanced understanding of SCQF and how the Framework demonstrates young people can go far in vocational learning
  • Advancing equalities.

The current focus on the attainment gap by policy makers is on early years provision and schools. However policies and curriculum reforms in themselves will not result in a lessening or closing of the attainment gap. The landscape is full of complexities and challenges! The range of reports reinforces the knowledge that raising attainment is a collective responsibility and that the college sector can and does make a significant contribution to raising attainment, providing opportunities for success, accessing further education and articulation to higher education and entry to employment for students from more deprived backgrounds.

The current priorities for the national improvement framework are:

  • Improvement in attainment, particularly in literacy and numeracy
  • Closing the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged children
  • Improvement in children and young people’s health and wellbeing
  • Improvement in employability skills and sustained positive school leaver destinations for all young people.

So the question for the sector is: How can colleges strengthen and consolidate the significant contribution already made to closing the attainment gap aligned to the priorities of the National Improvement Framework? Please share your ideas and success stories!

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