Dame Anne Begg chaired Lead Scotland’s 5th national conference held on 9th June 2016, Perth UHI, which was attended by 100 cross sector delegates from as far as the Western Isles and the Midlands. We were delighted to have our conference opened with an encouraging speech by Shirley Anne Sommerville, MSP, the new minister for Further and Higher Education.
“Are We There Yet?”, Improving lifelong and life wide learning journeys for disabled people, was this year’s conference theme. It was brought to life by a range of thought provoking speakers. Frankie McLean, Deaf Action, spoke from his personal and professional experience and reminded us that 8.9% of Deaf children leave school with no qualifications compared with their hearing peers. Prof Keith Smyth, UHI stimulated thinking about digital places and digital spaces and gave a call to action for us all to widen access to online learning opportunities, many of which currently only amplify the voices of those learning at a Higher Education level. Vonnie Sandlan, NUS’s first female president for 10 years talked about from personal experience initially and how this has given her the drive to think positive about student mental health. All speakers were passionate, informed and spoke from the heart. Workshop hosts came armed with practical resources, wisdom and toolkits. Thanks are also due to the stallholders who took time to share their knowledge and information. The workshop presentations are now live on our website.
We’ve ‘storified’ some tweets and have added photos taken by our volunteer photographer, Stan Farrow, quietly celebrating Volunteers Week too. 45% of all Lead Scotland learners were supported by volunteers in 2015-16.
Lead Scotland is incredibly grateful to the Scottish Government for financial support, to Perth College UHI for the great venue and to all the delegates who came ready to get involved and who created a really positive partnership buzz. The conference report will be published in July, once we receive evaluation feedback. By the end of the day Dame Anne Begg concluded that we weren’t there yet, but we really hope the day has made a positive contribution towards an improving picture.