Local employers such as BAE—[Interruption.] Perhaps Mr Jackson, who is making interventions from the Bench, could learn something from the picture in Scotland. Local employers such as BAE are working with the college, doing day releases with apprentices. There is a nursery on site for students with caring responsibilities. The number of women on full-time courses has increased. There is also a programme for students with additional support needs that prepares them for the world of work.
Certain school pupils benefit from attending local colleges for two or three afternoons a week. I am sure that the situation is similar in England. That allows them to follow vocational courses that the school cannot provide. Often, these are disaffected or challenging students for whom academic routes are not working. I keep hearing about how colleges provide routes for students to do their A-levels. Some students follow vocational routes and get vocational qualifications, and those must be viewed as the equals of academic subjects.
One challenge that colleges experience is the way in which they are perceived by society. It is important that we, as legislators, recognise the vital role that they play in providing positive destinations. A few years ago, I had a student whose parents were very keen for him to go to university, but he was not emotionally or academically ready. When he saw what the college had on offer, he decided to sign up. He has flourished and now has two job offers for when he finishes in June, but he also has the option of entering the third year at university.
Colleges provide an excellent educational opportunity for our young people. Their role in providing routes to employment must be recognised and appropriately funded. It is no coincidence that Scotland has a higher rate of positive destinations and a higher rate of youth employment than the UK as a whole.