NEWS that West Lothian is to remain as a college region in its own right has been widely welcomed.
The announcement was made on Tuesday by Education Secretary Michael Russell, who said head been impressed by the strength of the partnership that already existed between the college, schools, the council and Skills Development Scotland (SDS).
Last year, Mr Russell announced that Scotland’s colleges would fall into 12 regions and there were fears that West Lothian would be absorbed into a bigger area, probably including Edinburgh and the rest of the Lothians.
However, this week, the minister said: “I have been giving careful consideration to West Lothian. I believe the strength of the partnership between the college, local schools, the local authority and others is already delivering benefits for learners.
For example, it is allowing young people to undertake vocational college courses while still at school, and it’s ensuring the college is delivering the skills the local economy needs.
“That is why I have now decided that West Lothian will become Scotland’s 13th college region. There are strong natural synergies with both the Central and Edinburgh and Lothian regions. I want all partners to continue to work together to deliver the strategic planning and overview combined with local delivery that will be the hallmark of our college regions.”
The principal of West Lothian College, Mhairi Laughlin, said: “We are absolutely delighted that Michael Russell has announced that for the provision of further education, West Lothian has been recognised as a region in its own right. We believe that we have a unique opportunity in going forward in partnership with West Lothian Council and our key stakeholders.
West Lothian Council leader Peter Johnston also warmly welcomed the announcement.
He said: ““I am absolutely delighted that the Cabinet Secretary has not just listened to our arguments but accepted them and has now given us the opportunity to deliver for our young people.
“Through a local partnership of West Lothian Council, West Lothian College, Jobcentre plus, and Skills Development Scotland, we are creating an innovative and unique model to enable us to deliver our ambitions for post 16 education for West Lothian.”
Angela Constance MSP, who also lobbied for this outcome, said: “I have no doubts this new way of working will meet the needs of the rising population in West Lothian and better serve our students and our local economy. It is vital that our young people gain the skills they need to maximise their employability and develop their careers in future.”