HEADTEACHERS in Carlisle believe they have cracked the problem of keeping disaffected teenagers in school - with a scheme that has wiped out exclusions among 14 to 16-year-olds.
The eight heads believe the programme, which offers a mix of academic, vocational and basic skills courses, could succeed in other towns and cities.
No 14 to 16-year-olds in the town have been excluded this year, compared to around 10 in 199899. And the 20-odd students following the programme have clocked up a 100 per cent attendance record.
The scheme exploits changes to the national curriculum that make it easier for schools to offer alternatives to traditional academic courses at key stage 4. It has been developed with local colleges, Cumbria education authority, and Rathbone CI - a charity working with disaffected teenagers.
Pupils are offered tailored packages of school, work and college-based study, as well as basic and work-skills programmes provided by Rathbone CI. They can thus do GCSEs, vocational college courses, and work-experience simultaneously. The aim is to go onto further education, training or jobs.
The schem provides a full-time programme for around 20 pupils, at a cost of around pound;4,500 per head. Anne Weinstock, Rathbone CI's chief executive, said the cost compared favourably with the pound;4,300 price of providing a few hours' home tuition a week for permanently excluded pupils.
The schools agreed to pay in the money they received for each pupil, around pound;2,500, and Cumbria contributed another pound;20,000. The scheme's full-time inclusion manager is jointly employed by the schools and authority.
Mike Gibbons, head of Carlisle's Trinity school, believes the scheme could be a model for other cities and towns. And the scheme's success has prompted the Carlisle schools to look at co-operating in other areas, including post-16 provision.
He said: "We are taking issues of joint concern, sharing expertise and collectively pulling resources together to manage it as heads. It's a case of us working together practically to up the social inclusion of the young people of this city. We feel it's a model that could apply elsewhere. If it can happen in Carlisle, it can happen anywhere."
The scheme is to be evaluated by Professor Alan Dyson, of Newcastle University.
For more information contact Mary Carley, of Rathbone CI on 0161 236 5358