5. Barriers to Learning
5.1 The National Islands Plan Survey found that 69% of islanders agree that they could do a college qualification in a subject of their choice while living on the islands, either online or in person. Islands groups with population centres reported higher levels of agreement, including Orkney Mainland (77%), Lewis and Harris (75%), and Shetland Mainland (74%).
5.2 Just over half of all respondents to the National Islands Plan Survey agreed that, if they wanted to, they could do a university degree in a subject of their choice while living on the islands (online or in person). Again, highest agreement was found among island groups with population centres, including Lewis and Harris (62%) and Orkney Mainland (59%).
5.3 No national data is available on whether adult learners agree that they can access a community-based adult learning opportunity of their choice and if their community-based learning provides strong progression routes into college courses. Community-based adult learning is often the first step back into education for many adult learners and offers pathways to Scotland's further and higher education system. To strengthen and develop these pathways, the strategy will focus on building better connections between community-based adult learning and mainstream education. A deeper and more nuanced understanding of progression routes within island communities is needed to enable this for adult learners in island communities during the implementation of the strategy.
5.4 The National Islands Plan Survey data revealed that in addition to a lack of higher education opportunities that respondents felt that there were a lack of childcare options to fit with residents' working patterns. 30% of island residents agreed that parents have access to childcare services that suit their work hours. Argyll Islands (9%) and Orkney Outer Isles (9%) have especially low levels of agreement. It should be noted that island communities were asked if access suited work hours and not learning opportunities. However, challenges in accessing high quality and affordable childcare can act as a barrier for parents, particularly women, taking up learning opportunities.
5.5 Less frequent and more expensive public transport options, combined with greater distances to childcare, can be a barrier to learning opportunities. The 2011 Census showed that bus travel was the most common mode of transport used to travel to study by people living in the three island authorities (Orkney, 36.8%, Shetlands 39.3%, Na h-Eileanan Siar 49.3%). It should be noted that this data includes all people aged over four and studying and not specifically adult learners. The National Islands Plan Survey found that 69% of islanders agree that their local bus connects to essential services, with significant differences between Orkney Mainland (81%) and Orkney Outer Isles (25%), and between Shetland Mainland (74%) and Shetland Outer Isles (33%).
5.6 Digital connectivity can also provide an additional barrier to island communities, both in terms of accessing services and accessing learning. No specific data is available in relation to digital learning, however, The National Islands Plan Survey reported that 96% of island households have access to the internet from home. It found that 65% of island residents agree that their internet connection at home is fast enough to do what they want online. Only 27% of Shetland Outer Isles residents agreed with this statement compared to 66% of Shetland Mainland residents. A significant difference was also noted between the Orkney Outer Isles (45%) and Orkney Mainland (70%). 62% of island residents agree that their internet connection at home is reliable, with significantly lower agreement in Shetland Outer Isles (30%) and Orkney Outer Isles (35%).
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