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Brigade named as inclusion beacon

Few councils seem to involve schools in anti-exclusion drives - with one notable exception. Karen Thornton reports

A scheme to recruit volunteer part-time firefighters has been heralded as an example of how schools can promote social inclusion.

The Cheshire fire cadet scheme, which involves more than 100 youngsters aged 13 to 18, was held up as a model in a survey published this week by the Local Government Association.

In the scheme fire cadets are selected from a range of backgrounds. They spend an evening a week at fire stations learning how to run hoses and set up ladders. They also take part in mock emergency drills and help community projects.

Community fire safety officer Kevin Hughes said: "The skills we are developing in young people - team-building, problem-solving, decision-making, confidence-building - are what employers are looking for. We no longer run these schemes to identify future firefighters, but to offer young people an opportunity."

Teenagers leave the scheme with records of achievement.

Graham Lane, the LGA's education chairman, said: "If you want to tackle social inclusion, you have got to have all the agencies working together, and we should be getting schools involved in that."

The survey, All Together Now, which looked at what councils are doing to promote social inclusion, says around three-quarters of England's 410 authorities have made anti-poverty projects a priority, nearly a third target teenage pregnancies.

However, the report says that councils are failing to involve schools. Only one or two councils mentioned schools as partners in their campaigns, despite the fact that 50 per cent targeted services at young people, 45 per cent of them at children.

Half the authorities used educational indicators - free school meals and national test results - to measure the success of anti-poverty strategies.

Copies of "All Together Now?" are available from IDeA Publication Sales, telephone 020 7296 6600, quoting LGA code SR033. Price pound;20 (including postage), pound;10 to local authorities

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