A nursery manager from Castle Douglas whose partnership with an elderly care home is proving beneficial for both age groups; and a café which has partnered with Dumfries & Galloway College to provide unique learning opportunities for young people with additional support needs, are in the running for a prestigious prize at this year’s Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) Star Awards.



Enabling young people with ASN to gain qualifications in a supportive environment was the goal of a partnership between Dumfries & Galloway College and social enterprise café The Usual Place (TUP). In achieving this, these SQA Star Awards Partnership of the Year finalists are challenging stereotypes of what young people with ASN are capable of.

An idea by Personal Development Award (PDA) in Childhood Practice student Catherine Schlag has resulted in a highly successful scheme in which nursery children have weekly visits to a local elderly care home. With both age groups benefiting, Catherine has been shortlisted in the Training Organisation Candidate of the Year category.

The SQA Star Awards recognise the achievements of individuals working towards SQA qualifications as well as the schools, colleges, training providers and employers who help to deliver SQA qualifications — that enable learners to achieve their ambitions.

At Dumfries-based The Usual Place, the young people are involved in all aspects of the day-to-day running of the café. Whilst gaining important life skills, they are also working towards Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) in subjects including Professional Cookery, and Hospitality Services. They are able to do so because The Usual Place and Dumfries & Galloway College created resources to make the SVQs accessible for people with ASN.

The result is that young people who may otherwise have felt isolated and excluded from education, are contributing to their local community, and are progressing to employment or further education.

Whilst working in a nursery and undertaking her studies with Step-Up Training – both based in Castle Douglas, Dumfries – Catherine explored the benefits of different generations spending time with each other. With this is mind, she contacted a local elderly care home proposing that the nursery children establish a weekly visit. The result has been some wonderful relationships formed between the youngsters and elderly residents.

Catherine says that the children talk excitedly about their visits, and that the experience has shown her how rewarding community partnerships can be.

All the Dumfries finalists have been invited to join the other finalists for a spectacular ceremony at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow on Friday 15 November.

They will be recognised for their outstanding achievements and contributions to the success stories that have taken place within Scottish education and training over the past 12 months.

In all, thirteen awards will be presented on the night for categories including School Candidate of the Year, SQA Champion, and Lifelong Learning Centre of the Year.

Of all the category winners, two will be chosen to collect SQA’s distinguished “Pride o’ Worth” awards; so named after the SQA motto and taken from Robert Burns’ poem, “A Man’s a Man for A’ That”.

SQA will also offer its highest accolade, the SQA Fellowship, to an individual who has made exceptional contributions to education and training in Scotland throughout their career.

SQA Chief Executive, Fiona Robertson, said: “The nominations for this year’s awards reflect the dedication of candidates studying for SQA qualifications, as well as the commitment of teachers, lecturers, and specialists to providing innovative and engaging learning opportunities. The awards will shine a light on inspirational projects taking place in our centres – the schools, colleges, training providers, and employers who deliver our qualifications. I look forward to welcoming our finalists, who will come together from across the country, throughout the UK and beyond, to what promises to be a fantastic evening celebrating some truly remarkable achievements in education.”

The SQA Star Awards will be hosted by TV and radio presenter Kaye Adams and is supported by a number of sponsors, including the General Teaching Council for Scotland, the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership and Skills Development Scotland.