Community College

WHEN we think of our local college, what often springs to mind is the role it plays in educating our young.

But what is less likely to come to mind, is the vital role it has in supporting the vulnerable members of our community.

In the past year more than 1,000 students with learning disabilities or complex needs enrolled at James Watt. A significant number of these students will have been attending the college for as long as five years. Some will have attended for many more.

In giving them the chance to improve their knowledge and skills, as well as the opportunity to be out and about in the community, the college has given added value and worth to their lives and has assisted with their inclusion within society.

But I have major concerns that the unintended consequence of the cuts to college budgets and the merger plans that are currently taking place could exclude those students.

Hard questions need to be addressed now to prevent such consequences arising.

What mechanisms will be put in place to ensure that vulnerable students are supported during this transitional period?

What help will be given to their carers and families?

How will we ensure that they can continue to get access to education locally?

And how will we secure positive outcomes for this group, not just in terms of employment, but also in terms of self-development and inclusion within the community?

These are all tough questions. But we cannot afford to put them off for another day.

And given that this issue will have a huge impact on vulnerable students, their carers and families, we must ensure that they are at the heart of the process and their views are clearly listened to.