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Education / Further education targets may be missed

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CREDIT targets for further education in Shetland might not be met due to knock-on effects of the pandemic, a meeting heard on Thursday.

Shetland College principal Jane Lewis said this has been caused by delays to SVQ completion, uncertainty around building access and the vulnerability of some students.

However, she said assurance has been given by the Scottish Funding Council that there will be no financial clawback for this academic year in the event of credit targets not being met.

A report presented to a meeting of the Shetland College Board highlighted that current figures for Shetland’s tertiary education sector show that 3,375 further education credits have been achieved so far in 2020/21, which is 76 per cent of the target.

Lewis told Thursday’s meeting that the news was “not unsurprising”.

However, in 2018/19 the comparable figure was roughly the same at 77 per cent, while in 2019/20 it was 84 per cent.

Acting principal Susan Berry said “we are not alone regionally” with regards to the numbers, but she could not say how Shetland compared with the rest of Scotland when questioned by board chairman Peter Campbell.

The meeting also heard that there are currently around 10 to 15 students in Shetland College a day under current restrictions.

A blended approach is allowed under level three, with students on practical courses and those needing extra support able to come into the college in person.

Berry said there was no firm timetable in place for a fuller return for students, but more information could be given out by the Scottish Government next week.

Shetland West councillor Theo Smith received reassurances that those on practical courses were being supported to finish their courses under the current restrictions.

Berry said, however, that there was more of a problem with those on SVQ courses who needed observations to take place, as these were suffering from delays.

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“I’m particularly concerned about construction students and considering the amount of work that’s piled up for the future,” Smith added.

But Berry said that the construction department was being “innovative” in its approach to operating under the coronavirus constraints.

Lewis, meanwhile, said Skills Development Scotland believes Train Shetland is “bucking the trend” at the moment when it comes to filling apprenticeships.

She said Shetland was getting more apprenticeships than other others of Scotland, with employers praised for taking folk on.

Train Shetland hopes to achieve around 75 to 80 new starts in this financial year, which was described as a “positive result despite Covid-19”.

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