Keynote – Jamie Hepburn MSP - Day 1
The second keynote of Learning Places Scotland 2021 was delivered by Jamie Hepburn MSP, Scotland’s Minister for Higher and Further Education, Youth Employment and Training. This session was chaired by the Scottish Government’s Andy Dailly. It provided an overview of the key themes demonstrated throughout this year’s event – suitability, sustainability, low carbon, inclusive growth and digital estate – which will be critical to improve Scotland’s learning estate and to connect people, places and learning post-Covid.
Mr Hepburn started his presentation by acknowledging the progress and resilience that our society has shown across the United Kingdom, and in particular Scotland, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, the way that everyone has played a part in ensuring that education could continue, while bringing communities together.
It is the Scottish Government’s ambition to ensure that every young person has access to education in a fit-for-purpose, quality learning environment. As such, through Scotland’s investment programmes, significant progress has been made where award winning learning environments have been delivered across Scotland. Data collection has demonstrated this progress where schools in ‘good’ and ‘satisfactory’ condition have increased from 61% in 2007 – when the SNP administration begun – to 90% in 2021. In this same period, schools in ‘poor’ condition have fallen from 37% to 8%. Since 2007, 1,000 school building and refurbishment projects have been delivered with many more in the pipeline.
Learning is a cradle-to-grave experience: the early years are a critical period of social, cognitive, physical and emotional development, therefore quality learning environments need to support this journey to shape Scotland’s young people for future success. The Scottish Government is committed to expand and transform the early learning and childcare estate to be high quality, flexible, accessible and affordable. The aim is to achieve this using £476m of capital funding to create 22,000 additional learning spaces in over 900 projects across Scotland.
The £1.8b Scotland’s Schools for the Future (SSF) programme played a significant role in the aforementioned success. Since 2009, the programme has benefited over 60,000 pupils, and to conclude its twelfth year, its 117th final project was delivered in April 2021: Lossiemouth High School in Moray. Alongside the SSF programme is the £2b Learning Estate Investment Programme which aims to benefit the lives of 50,000 learners and communities while also leading the way to net zero and inclusive economic growth. Since 2019, the first two phases of the programme have approved 37 projects. At present, the development of a detailed timeline for phase three is in the works and is expected to be finalised by the end of 2021.
In addition, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) is developing a strategy in the context of mid to long term infrastructure in the college and further education sector. A key objective will be to improve overall student experience as well as addressing the climate crisis. This will be achieved through thorough planning, collaboration and review across the whole lifecycle of a project. The SFC is currently focused entirely on the climate emergency and is developing partnerships with universities across Scotland. Their funding – which has led to innovative solutions in learning spaces – has already saved an impressive 12,000 tonnes of CO2 since 2017.
The learning environments being delivered as a result of Scotland’s investment programmes to enhance the learning estate will not only benefit the lives of children and young people, but also their parents, teachers and communities. To achieve this, a holistic approach needs to be followed from the outset to meet common goals with learners and the environment at the heart of decision making.