Nicola Sturgeon’s own poverty adviser has criticised cuts to college funding in Scotland with a warning that youngsters are now losing out on vital skills to gain work.
In a new report, Naomi Eisenstadt also said there is a “fundamental unfairness” in modern Scotland with the life chances of youngsters dependent on the wealth and social class of their parents.
The document, entitled The Life Chances of Young People in Scotland, focuses on the expectations of youngsters in areas including education, getting work and housing.
The gap between rich and poor young people is described as “deeply worrying” by Ms Eisenstadt.
She said: “The fundamental fact remains that life outcomes are largely determined by the wealth and social class of one’s parents at birth. This applies across the social spectrum, not only to the richest and poorest of families.”
The drop in college numbers – down to a ten-year low, according to a recent report by public spending watchdog Audit Scotland – is damaging hopes of youngsters in accessing a non-academic route into work and out of poverty.
“The potential for the college sector to reduce socio-economic inequality has been under-explored as an issue,” the report added.
“The overall picture suggests that the university sector has had greater protection from hard financial times than the further education and the college sector.”
A key recommendation of the report is based on “ensuring and enhancing” the quality of the college sector.
Concerns about the career advice youngsters were getting at schools is also raised in the report, with this deemed to be “poor quality” and “patchy”.
The under-fire Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is called into question over the problems many youngsters face in securing careers advice.
The report added: “CfE is meant to help young people become confident learners, confident about their own choices in life.
“If this aspect of CfE is not working as it should, it would be helpful to revisit it.”
The adviser has made a series of 18 recommendations to the Scottish Government to help improve the life chances for young people from less advantaged backgrounds.
These include delivering more affordable housing options for young people, creating more flexibility for students to move between college and university courses, funding research on mental health in school, and providing subsidised or free transport for under-25s.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the report will provide a “useful challenge to the Scottish and UK governments to do more to improve the life chances of young people from less advantaged backgrounds and to build a fairer future”.
Tory equalities spokeswoman Annie Wells said the squeeze on colleges was down to free tuition in universities which is now “hindering” the chances of many Scots youngsters getting work via further education.
Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “SNP ministers talk about creating a bright future for our young people, yet have slashed tens of thousands of college places.”