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Back from the brink

Vocational training may be better than exclusion

Statistics show a five-fold increase in pupil exclusions since l990, with boys four times more likely to be thrown out of school than girls.

Education Secretary Gillian Shephard has said that permanent exclusion should be seen as a last resort, but a recent Office for Standards in Education report criticised some heads for being too quick to exclude disruptive pupils while others were unwilling to expel trouble makers.

The National Association for the Care and Rehabilitation of Offenders is trying to provide a safety net for teenage boys at risk of exclusion.

Ray Glen is manager of NACRO's Dorset New Careers training Centre in Poole, where six teenage boys identified as being at risk of exclusion are currently following a programme of vocational training. The boys remain on the roll of their schools, which keep a close eye on their progress. The aim of the programme is to guide the disaffected youngsters from the brink of exclusion back into training and towards a career.

"A lot of people get through school and as soon as they get out they drop out of the system," he says. "We want to give them a smooth progression from school into training and employment. We put together a basic vocational package that would keep them interested with the emphasis on committment and attendance to establish a work environment. We are trying to identify a vocational focus for them."

Duane's headteacher at Carter Community School, David Pratten is happy to have found an alternative to excluding Duane. "By the summer term of year 10 Duane had gone right through the school's behaviour code and we had exhausted most of the measures that we could use."

But he was unwilling to use the final punishment available to him: "I have never excluded a child and I don't ever want to be in that position."

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