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Fun mix of practical and theory

Lee Tocher and Siobhan McNeill talk about their vocational courses with an enthusiasm rarely heard from teenagers asked about school.

"I thought it might be a lot of classwork and a bit of practical," says Siobhan. "Like at school you go in for the period and basically do just one thing.

"But on this course you're not doing classwork one day, then practical the next. You go outside in the garden, then come in and do a bit of written work, then you go outside again. It's all mixed in, which makes it a lot better."

Lee in particular has been slightly surprised by the amount of work they have to do. "On Friday afternoons they take us out to Castlemilk Sports Centre and the first thing we do is clean the swimming pool," he says.

"They give us scouring pads and a bucket of white powder and we get into the pool and go all round it, scrubbing the green left by the chlorine off the bit at the side you hold on to.

"It's a big pool, so it's not easy."

There are compensations, however. Once the pool has been cleaned, Lee and his coursemates from other schools get to take advantage of the sports facilities.

"If we do the work, the instructors say, they'll do what we want. So, sometimes we play football, but for the past few weeks they've been showing us how to turn people in the pool who have spinal injuries, how to do CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), how to get people out of a building when the fire alarm goes off and how to find somebody's missing bairn."

The enthusiastic teenagers even make the continuous assessments sound relatively painless. "They teach you to do something for a couple of weeks," says Siobhan, "and you do it a few times. Then they stop telling you how and you do it yourself while they watch and give you marks.

"Last week they opened up the tool shed and I had to pick out all the correct tools, take them away in a wheelbarrow to the beds and use them in the right way.

"You get written tests too, like naming the different internal and external parts of a plant and what they do and writing up plant profiles using an encyclopedia."

Lee and Siobhan feel now that their course subject would not be their first career choice but both regard the courses as valuable experience, a useful fall-back if their first choices do not materialise and a good way of earning money if they go to college.

There have been other rewards too. Lee talks with pleasure of the time he and his coursemates were asked what they thought of the course. "I said: 'If you act like an adult you get treated like an adult.'

"I don't know why but they picked my words and put them on a poster (as well as a promotional video, says the council). Now when they go around schools telling the second years all about the pre-vocational programme, they will get to hear what I said about it."

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