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Lock-makers offered a key to greater choice

Anyone in doubt about the potential benefits of sixth-formers dividing their week between several sites should talk to Andrew Kerr.

The 18-year-old, who took his GCSEs at Wolverhampton's Heath Park high school, has spent the past two years moving between three schools and an employer.

On Mondays, Andrew travelled the seven miles from his home in the city to Lowe and Fletcher, a lock-making firm in Wednesbury, for a student apprenticeship work placement.

On Tuesdays, he walked to Moreton community school, where he studied for an A-level in product design. Wednesdays were spent at his "home school", Heath Park, for lessons in A-level information and communications technology. And on Thursdays he took a five-minute minibus ride to Northicote school, in Bushbury, for A-level art lessons. Fridays were left free for study at home.

At first, he felt daunted by the prospect of meeting students and teachers from other schools.

He said: "I was a bit nervous. But after the first week it was fine. In the end, I preferred it like this because it gave me a lot of new friends and offered the chance to do this work experience. " Certainly, the partnership between the three schools increased the options available to Andrew at A-level.

But it was Monday's work placement, organised by the local training firm Making Learning Work which has left the most lasting impression. Having enjoyed the placement, he now intends to pursue a career in mechanical engineering.

Rather than go to university, he would like to study for a modern apprenticeship and associated higher national certificate - if possible with Lowe and Fletcher.

He said: "It's a similar qualification to what you would get at university, but you get practical experience as well. Employers taking on people from university realise they don't have that experience and have to train them up afterwards."

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