College chief’s night class retort

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THE principal of Borders College has defended the sparse provision of evening classes in Hawick and says it is down to supply and demand.

A new term of evening and day classes available across the region commences this month, but from an extensive mix of subjects being advertised for enrolment, there are only five available in Hawick.

Teries are being offered cake decorating and sugar paste flowers, cooking around the world, hand embroidery, hooked on crochet and a mind and body general workout. This compares to 40 classes of all varieties in Galashiels – ranging from foreign languages and first aid, to hip-hop dance, computing and bee-keeping. Other towns including Duns, Jedburgh, Kelso and Peebles also boast a more practical subject choice.

Principal Liz McIntyre told the Hawick News that the provision in the town is based on previous take-up of classes. She said: “The programmes that are planned for January are those that appear, based on the evidence of the previous term, to be well attended and likely to be popular again.”

Mrs McIntyre says that evening class provision in Hawick is only a small part of the service offered by the college, with educational development and employability skills being accessed by large numbers of people at the Buccleuch Road campus.

But local councillor Ron Smith told us: “I am disappointed if all that is appearing is hobby or interest courses, and that they don’t take the place of courses which might assist people in finding improved work opportunities.”

Echoing these sentiments, fellow ward member Davie Paterson said: “I realise that Borders College has to make savings the same as everyone else, but not to have the vast majority of learners or potential learners being disenfranchised in this way.

“I have been informed by a representative of the college that they did not get the required number of people for courses such as computing, when they tried to put it on in Hawick. I was also told was that if there was a lecturer prepared to teach night classes in Hawick, they should come forward, but that it is not worth putting a course on with only one or two people there.”

Councillor Paterson says he has also been told that lecturers do not get paid a travel allowance. “I would hate to think that that was one of the reasons why Hawick is losing out,” he said.

Referring to an assurance from Mrs McIntyre that the public can influence which subjects are on the evening class timetable, Councillor Smith commented: “It needs to be clear what the motivation is for providing courses in Hawick.”

Ms McIntyre added: “We are still very keen to work with Hawick Community Council and townsfolk to better understand what type of courses are required in the evenings.”