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Could young people lead community activities?

Study will decide if a 'bank' of teenagers can deliver the out-of-hours revolution

A GRANT of pound;10,000 is to be spent investigating the feasibility of training young people to deliver out-of-school-hours activities in community focused schools (CFS).

The potential for a "bank" of young volunteers in Wales under a student leadership scheme, as schools offer round-the-clock care and activities, is being looked at by the Assembly government-funded ContinYou Cymru. Estyn has also been commissioned to undertake a survey on how schools and local authorities are making the best use of CFS grants.

The organisation, which supports extra-curricular activities, secured funding from the Wales Council for Voluntary Action.

The WCVA was able to offer the extra money from funds made available in the aftermath of the 2005 Russell Commission report, A National Framework for Youth Action and Engagement, which encouraged greater volunteering in UK educational institutions.

The findings will be reported in March next year after interviews with headteachers, youth volunteering advisers and local authority youth service representatives. The education charity University of the First Age is also involved. "We will be holding two consultation days with young people later in the year," said Heledd James, project manager. "This study is just to see what is viable."

ContinYou's long-term aim is to develop volunteers aged between 12 and 16 who will be trained student leaders, motivating children and young people in extra-curricular activities.

In 2005 ContinYou Cymru, along with the Association of Directors of Education in Wales, said every school should be offering out-of-hours activities for pupils and the wider community by 2010.

Jane Hutt, Wales's new minister for education, children and young people, has also made community-focused schools her chief priority.

In a press release sent out after her appointment, she said: "I am a keen advocate of lifelong learning. Its benefits for the whole community and the prosperity of Wales are far-reaching."

Opening up schools to the wider community has also been seen as a solution to the problem of rising surplus places.

But critics fear that this could leave children vulnerable to strangers. Guidance was sent out by the Assembly government last year, warning that over 18s who attend classes with children are not required to have Criminal Record Bureau checks.

Over the past three financial years, more than pound;10 million has been invested in the CFS agenda by the Assembly government.

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