School leavers suffer from ‘social class gradient’ warns poverty adviser Naomi Eisenstadt
College sector not valued highly enough to address skills needs and improve life chances, warns Nicola Sturgeon’s poverty advisor
Naomi Eisenstadt - credit Scottish Government
Young people leaving school who do not go to university face “fundamental unfairness”, according to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s independent poverty advisor.
In her second report ‘The Life Chances of Young People’, poverty and inequality advisor Naomi Eisenstadt warned Scotland’s college sector has been more exposed to “hard financial times” than higher education.
It concluded the skills system in Scotland “is not well matched” to current or future labour market demand.
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“The persistence of the social class gradient is deeply worrying,” it warns.
The report also published 18 recommendations for the Scottish Government.
These focus on the transition between leaving school and adulthood, and include placing more value on non-academic pursuits, providing more career and housing advice and mental health support.
Every post-school internship should be paid, while young people should also benefit from free public transport, Eisenstadt concluded.
“This generation of young adults face challenges their parents largely didn’t have to deal with,” Eisenstadt wrote in her introduction. “What we have to do, as policy makers and practitioners, is to make those challenges less daunting so young people can respond positively when they meet them.”
Sturgeon described the report as “robust advice” and announced the establishment of a new Poverty and Inequality Commission.
Sturgeon said: “The new Commission will build on Naomi’s excellent work, providing independent advice to Scottish Ministers, harnessing determined collective action on a cross-portfolio basis; and scrutinising how governmental budgets, policy and practice can have the strongest impacts on poverty and inequality.”
Eisenstadt said: “I have met some extraordinary young people and was impressed by the dedication of the people who work with them. I hope this report will help to improve their chances for the future.”
Opposition parties pointed to official figures showing the number of college places has dropped to a decade low.
The Scottish Conservatives said the report “exposed the SNP’s neglect” of the college sector. The party’s equalities spokeswoman Annie Wells said: “Education is such a key route in getting people out of a cycle of poverty. Yet now we see that SNP policies on free tuition are actually hindering that for many.
“They have led to colleges getting squeezed, even though they are so vital in delivering people the skills and education they need to make a difference for them and their families.”
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said the Government’s response to Eisenstadt’s previous report, ‘Shifting the Curve’ had been a “whitewash”.
“SNP ministers talk about creating a bright future for our young people, yet have slashed tens of thousands of college places across Scotland and presided over the worst crisis in Scotland’s schools since devolution,” she said.
A progress report on the Scottish Government’s response to ‘Shifting the Curve’ was also published yesterday. Eisenstadt described the progress as “gratifying”.
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