Some in the education system say that a problem in attracting young people onto college courses – full time or delivered as part of the senior phase at school – is that most parents see university as the top destination to aspire to.

I don’t buy this.

First, more school leavers move onto college each year than university. For most of these young people, college is their aspiration, their first choice destination.

Each year in Scotland, three quarters of school leavers DON’T go to university yet the ‘university first’ myth persists.

For those school leavers who do aspire to go to university but don’t secure a place, college is a second chance to gain qualifications which will ultimately help them get onto a degree programme, often directly into second or third year.

Aspirations of young people and their parents vary – stay on at school, leave school to further their education at college or university, start a job, sometimes as an apprentice. All positive and valid aspirations. Very few people will disagree with this, but some don’t really believe it.

A recent research report, Can we put the ‘poverty of aspiration’ myth to bed now? by Morag Treanor from the University of Stirling, explodes the myth that poor parents have low or no aspirations for their kids’ education.

An interesting statement in the report is that the “literature emphasises that it is the structural elements of poverty, and the middle-class culture of education, that presents a barrier to children’s education and not a deficiency in parents’ or children’s aspirations.”

I work at Ayrshire College and have no doubt that parents of the vast majority of our younger students aspired for their daughters and sons to go to college as a first choice destination, not as a second best option.

Their aspirations are no less valid than those who aspire for their child to go to university.

All of us working in the education system need to believe this – and promote all pathways and destinations beyond school equally to young people.

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