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iPods lure students back to college

Lesley Richardson Funding chiefs this week defended a college's right to offer free iPods and laptop computers to unemployed youths who agree to study.

Teenagers under 19 who finish the Fresh Start course at Bournemouth and Poole College, in Dorset, can claim either a pound;300 laptop or 12 driving lessons worth pound;250. The six-month course, which has 50 places and starts this month, aims to get teenagers back into education.

Trish Taylor, executive director at the Learning and Skills Council Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset, said: "One of the biggest challenges facing the learning and skills sector is to find ways to engage with young people who are currently not involved in any kind of education, training or employment. The LSC encourages learning providers to look at innovative ways to encourage young people who lack direction to take part in education and training. This kind of work is crucial to help them improve future opportunities for employment."

Subjects on offer include floristry, construction skills, business admin and IT, retail and tourism, and art and design.

The incentives are paid for by the college's business funds while the LSC is funding the tuition.

Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: "It's giving the wrong message to young people. They shouldn't be bribed to go on courses which benefit them."

Last summer the college was criticised for offering pound;170 iPods, personal digital music players, to students aged 16 to 18 who embarked on the 14-week Step Up For Summer course.

In addition, students received pound;50 a week for one day a week of work, pound;100 cash when they finished the course, a further pound;100 payment if they enrolled on a further full-time course at the college, free lunch vouchers and free travel if they lived more than three miles away.

A spokeswoman for the college said 58 teenagers enrolled on the summer course, with 41 completing and 37 continuing in education or starting work.

She added: "We have found the kids are very motivated. They enjoy coming back into the college setting and really do see it as a fresh start."

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