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West College Scotland receives Diversity Award for addressing digital exclusion

West College Scotland (@WestCollScot) have been recognised at the Herald and GenAnalytics Diversity Awards. Presented last night (7 October 21) at a virtual ceremony, the College came up against tough competition from Abertay University (@AbertayUni), SMARTStem and the University of Stirling (@StirUni) to be named winners in the Diversity in Education category.

The prestigious accolade was awarded to West College Scotland’s Digital Strategy group who have been committed to ensuring that our staff and students are equipped with the skills and resource to be able to work and learn online, both reactively during the pandemic and proactively as we shift towards a hybrid learning model.

Operating across 3 local authorities, all with areas of high deprivation, West College Scotland are committed to ensuring we combat digital exclusion for our communities. Around 800,000 people in Scotland currently face digital exclusion and inequality in digital access. West College Scotland have taken a proactive approach to focus our attention on that risk, appointing our Digital Strategy Team, made up from colleagues across the College, with the shared goal of establishing best practice in digital inclusion linked to ensuring access for all and ultimately, educational achievement and heightened life chances.

A number of initiatives and resources have been put in place over the last academic year to support digital inclusion within our communities, to name a few:

  • Provision of over 5000 digital devices suited to the course being studied
  • Achievement of funding through “Connecting Scotland” to support vulnerable groups such as our Carer students, students with young families at home and ESOL students
  • Engagement with industry partners to provide refurbished digital kit to those disadvantaged students in need
  • Delivery of free digital training via Microsoft for staff, students and parents/guardians- to enable digital skills development as well as creation of Student IT Help Desk to support students & carers with their digital needs, run by our own HN Computing students.
  • Development of the Centre of Learning Technlogies site, offering a wealth of resource to support staff and students online

All of these initiatives have been employed with a clear focus on ensuring education attainment and achievement of specific groups or communities who may face digital exclusion for one reason or another. The importance of doing so has never been more prevalent as we move towards a more blended learning approach. West College Scotland are dedicated to our core purpose of ensuring access to learning and knowledge to our students.

Assistant Principal: Creativity and Skills, Angela Pignatelli who leads the WCS Digital Strategy group said,

“Our Group is made up of over 60 volunteer support staff and teaching staff across our College. Each of them is fulfilling a vital role to ensure our students and our staff are supported in the digital transformation which has occurred over the last 18months. West College Scotland operates across some of the most disadvantaged regions in Scotland so it was critical for us to address the digital poverty divide so that no one was left behind during the pandemic and beyond.”

Principal and Chief Executive, Liz Connolly spoke of the success saying,

Our staff and students did an amazing job in throwing themselves into the digital inclusion challenge with staff members even driving door to door throughout the pandemic to ensure our students received digital devices to continue their studies and close the digital poverty divide. Over 5000 devices have been issued and over 108 training sessions in using digital technology and, we’re pleased to say, to a full array of students including those students with disabilities, those with learning differences, our British Sign Language students and ESOL students. We are thrilled that their hard work, in supporting our students and staff, has been recognised by this prestigious Herald Diversity Award.”

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