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Excluded teenagers invited to college unit

Under the new Learning and Skills Act, the youth services will play a more central role in education and training for post-16s. Martin Whittaker investigates what the changes will mean for all those involved

Teenagers who have been excluded from secondary school are getting an early taste of further education, thanks to a partnership between an education authority and an FE college.

A pupil-referral unit for excluded youngsters has been set up by the education authority in the grounds of Somerset College of Arts and Technology in Taunton. Placing the unit on the campus helps remove the stigma of going to a special school, and means the youngsters can use the college's facilities.

"These streetwise or quite anxious kids can fit i and disappear alongside thousands of other learners," said David Harvey, the college's inclusion manager.

"They don't go to a special unit somewhere that's got a label on it - they're just college students. For us it widens participation. It gives us a new client group who progress on to our courses."

The college also runs a school link programme for disaffected Year 10 and 11 students from its feeder schools around Taunton. Local authority youth workers also come into college to work with these youngsters.

The college is also helping to pilot Getting Connected, an alternative curriculum framework for disaffected youngsters developed by the National Youth Agency and the national organisation for adult learning NIACE.

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