South Lanarkshire College Principal Aileen McKechnie believes the contribution of her organization to equity is vital to economic stability in the post-pandemic environment of Scotland, with a slogan of “get in, get through and get ahead,” Colin Cardwell by
At South Lanarkshire College (SLC) in East Kilbride, everyday life has changed as the pandemic of Covid 19 poses new challenges for staff and students alike. Normally welcoming and colorful communal areas have been transformed, now a common part of the routine with transparent signs to endorse Covid security, face masks, distance learning and one-way systems.
“In the current climate, health, safety and wellness have been at the heart of everything we do, and we have worked hard to ensure our campus is Covid-safe for our college community.”Health, safety and wellness have been at the center of everything we do in the current setting, and we have worked hard to ensure that our campus is Covid-safe for our college community.
In August, classes were reintroduced on a blended learning basis with a combination of distance and face-to-face learning to comply with the Scottish Government’s safety guidelines, while digital poverty among students is being tackled through the loan of more than 200 laptops and broadband dongles as required, with enhanced access for students and staff to IT training.
She adds that there is 24/7 virtual assistance available to ensure the emotional well-being of students. She says, “Higher education can bring new challenges and this is a particularly difficult time,” “If students have any concerns, it’s important they ask for the one-to-one help, support and advice available, and there are free weekly mindfulness and yoga classes (virtual), resilience workshops and a pastoral support service.”
“We had a virtual freshers’ week at the start of the term and the Students’ Union, with the support of my student support team, worked very hard to provide games, quizzes and workshops, which – although digital – were all well received, and we are determined to ensure that the student experience is as good as it can be,” she says.
The current crisis, however, will not deter the college from its firm conviction that equity and diversity in the provision of education and skills are key to ensuring the future social and economic stability of Scotland.
“By ensuring a fair distribution of the opportunities necessary for all our people to flourish, Scotland will maximize the social and economic potential of some of our best talent. We are absolutely passionate about the opportunities education brings to everyone, and that means providing an equal and inclusive environment for all our staff and students,” she says.
One of our mantras is to help all students “One of our mantras is to help all students ‘get in, get through and get on’ – and that includes pre-entry support that may be needed, right through to when they transfer either to another course here, to university or into modern or academic training or employment.” and that includes support for pre-entry that may be necessary, right through to moving either to another course here, to university or to modern or academic training or employment.
South Lanarkshire, where over 70% of students come from, suffers from social disadvantages, particularly in Rutherglen, Cambuslang and Hamilton, like other urban areas in Scotland, and McKechnie is determined that these students should not be disadvantaged when it comes to their education.
She says 47 percent of SLC students come from zip code areas of SIMD10/20 (Scottish Measure of Multiple Deprivation) and have a rate of achievement of 75 percent. “We are the highest performing college in Scotland for overall student attainment, the best in class for disadvantaged and ethnic minority students with 5 percent of our students from ethnic minorities compared to 0.1 percent in the local South Lanarkshire population – and we are the second best performing college in Scotland for students with care experience or a disability.”
For schools, colleges, universities and the third sector, the Scottish Government’s Equal Access System has been established, and McKechnie says there is still work to be done when it comes to students from disadvantaged backgrounds to ensure they have fair access to tertiary education.
Evidence suggests that students from more disadvantaged backgrounds have poorer job opportunities, likely because they do not have the same network of connections or trust as they do.