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The beauty is that the kids love it

Bog-standard comprehensives are fighting back. David Henderson reports from a landmark conference hosted by North Lanarkshire

A group of 15 third-year pupils at Our Lady's High in Motherwell have opted for more double periods, smaller classes and practical work. They like the new routine so much none of them has asked to change, their behaviour is commendable and they are making good progress in their Standard grade work.

The motivation is the prospect of vocational qualifications in construction and decorating or beauty therapy.

Six periods a week are taught in school after a pound;7,500 investment in equipping technical and home economics rooms. Five lecturers from Motherwell College, all registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland, come in to deliver the courses to a group of 15 pupils.

Bernard Love, Our Lady's headteacher, said that it was not appropriate for all pupils to follow the traditional model of eight Standard grades. Some had shown particular interest in practical work and were likely to go into further education.

"But it was important that this initiative was not seen as an option for the highly disaffected, non-attending, perhaps disruptive children," Mr Love said.

Pupils have been given a guarantee of two years' training which leads to a recognised qualification. Mr Love accepted that teachers were sceptical at first but were now more relaxed. There were also issues about progression into S5-S6.

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