A national campaign to save a European funded exchange programme has received the backing of the chairman of the council’s education and families committee.
Shetland south councillor George Smith has lent his voice to the KeepErasmusPlus campaign launched last week by a number youth and voluntary sector organisations across the UK.
Erasmus+ is a European funding programme for education, training, youth and sport which enables young people – particularly those who would not otherwise be able to afford it – the opportunity to study, work, volunteer, teach and train in other countries.
The programme also funds a range of educational activities in schools and has provided financial backing for a number of school trips for Shetland pupils in recent years.
Although connected to the European Union, membership is not a requirement of participation with countries such as Norway, Iceland and Turkey also benefitting from the programme.
But despite this the UK government and the EU have failed to guarantee continued benefits for the UK after Brexit.
Mr Smith said: “In the sense that Erasmus+ has benefited pupils and students alike it’s a programme that I would like to see retained.”
He added: “It’s certainly been valuable in the past in terms of giving pupils broad opportunities to learn and I hope that we will continue to benefit from the programme in the future.”
Lewie Peterson from the SIC schools service said that Erasmus+ funding, as well as funding from its predecessor programmes such as Comenius and Leonardo, had opened up a number of opportunities to young people in Shetland.
The most recent batch of funding came just last month when four Shetland schools received almost €60,000 to improve languages teaching.
Previously Erasmus+ funding had made it possible for Shetland to host a Global Classroom event in 2015 which saw pupils from countries such as Germany and Sweden visit the isles for an event emphasising the importance of shared learning, and encouraging the idea that pupils can “learn locally” but “think globally”.
In the same year, Brae High School welcomed pupils from Turkey, Norway, Latvia and Sardinia as part of a cultural exchange between communities “on the edge of Europe”. Trips to Riga in Latvia and Hammerfest in Norway to learn more about the cultures of those pupils who visited the isles followed.
Around 600,000 people from the UK have taken part in Erasmus+ programmes, with a number of university students also benefitting from the opportunity to study abroad through the scheme.
Rob Young, of the National Union of Students, said: “Studying abroad has a significant positive impact on employment prospects after graduating and enables students to build confidence, skills and lasting international relationships.
“These benefits have a particularly big impact for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is absolutely vital that we protect these transformative opportunities. The Erasmus+ scheme accounts for 55% of all study abroad for UK students, and to lose that would be catastrophic.”
• To sign the petition supporting the retention of Erasmus+ visit: http://bit.ly/KeepErasmusPlus