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Glasgow targets dole-queue kids

Glasgow is to become the first authority in Scotland to set secondaries individual targets for leaver destinations in its drive to halve the city's school-leaver unemployment rate within four years.

The city is prospering economically and believes young people have never had a better chance of work, particularly in hospitality and construction. Yet one in five leavers still head for the dole.

Secondaries are experienced in monitoring performance rates at Standard grade and Higher, attendance figures and national tests and should be able to handle fresh targets on leavers, the council says.

It proposes staged targets for each school that allow for local circumstances. "Many factors affect school-leaver destinations: performance in school, motivation, work readiness, the economic situation and employment opportunities," the city admits.

Richard Barron, depute director of education, called for a Glasgow-wide "challenging target" because of continuing high youth unemployment in a period of economic growth. By 2004, the rate should be cut to 10 per cent if the strategy works. It will also involve the careers service, the education business partnership, Scottish Enterprise Glasgow and employers.

Mr Barron said headteachers had reacted positively. "You are not talking about a lot of pupils year by year to meet the target. It's probably three to for per school. The number going into unemployment is a changing figure anyway."

Targets would be negotiated with schools and Mr Barron pledged: "We would never seek to place an intolerable burden on them."

Figures show that last session some 1,041 young people headed straight for the dole, with 26 per cent finding jobs, 23 per cent going into further education and 17 per cent into higher education. Only 5 per cent took the Skillseekers training route, a figure that has fallen by 9 per cent over five years.

Figures for schools vary significantly. Leaver unemployment at Springburn Academy is the highest among mainstream secondaries, at 41 per cent, and 19 per cent of pupils find jobs. St Margaret Mary's Secondary in Castlemilk has 41 per cent going into jobs and only 12 per cent heading for the dole.

Secondaries are also encouraged to build up their education for work programmes which may have a motivating effect on the disaffected. More vocational courses in schools aimed at S3 and S4 pupils are likely to be tested. Some pupils may drop a Standard grade - cutting from eight to seven - to follow work-based courses that could lead to jobs when they leave school.

Mr Barron said the city would not lead pupils "up a blind alley" and would tie in new courses to available job opportunities. Core and inter-personal skills would not suffer.

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