FOR a lot of us, the nationwide lockdown has been uncomfortable. We miss hugging our friends and family, carrying out day to day tasks without a mask and indulging in hobbies. It has been challenging at times and has undoubtedly taken its toll on our mental health.

But, for 70 students on our Enhanced Vocational Inclusion Programme (EVIP), the lockdown is more than just inconvenient. Many of our current EVIP cohort have complex social, behavioural, and emotional needs, and may have experienced adverse childhood experiences.

In lockdown, these issues have been exacerbated. Around 50% of our EVIP students are care experienced, and 28% don’t have access to technology at home. Usually they spend 30 hours a week at the college, where they have two home cooked meals a day. At home during lockdown, they may not have fresh food, or an adult to help them prepare it.

Our EVIP programme is delivered in partnership with Glasgow City Council, and offers students an alternative to mainstream secondary school education.

They attend college to study vocational qualifications, and have this learning supplemented by the EVIP coaches, who give pastoral care and support with numeracy, literacy, employability and other life skills.

College is a lifeline for many of these young people, some of whom have had little support in their lives and have been conditioned to believe they are not valued. We spend more time with them than anyone else in their lives.

We work closely with them to show them they are valued, skilled, and important. The difference can be as simple as having a structured weekly timetable to work from, the use of well-equipped areas for learning, warm and welcoming facilities and experienced staff members who have an interest in supporting vulnerable young people

One learner said: “At school, I felt as though the teachers couldn’t be bothered with me, or didn’t have time to bother when I was finding things difficult.

“At EVIP, things are 100 times different. I feel like staff respect me, and that when things are hard for me, people actually care.”

Many EVIP learners have gone on to university and have carved out successful careers. But someone has to believe in them, encourage them, and show them that with a little hard work they can achieve whatever they aim for. It’s our job to help them realise that they matter, and we must not underestimate the power of belonging that our College community provides.