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Lose the jargon, say experts

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Pointless and "uninspiring" jargon used in the 14-19 Learning Pathways initiative is confusing young people, according to an Assembly government report.

It says teenagers are not tuned in to official terms such as "learning coaches", or student advisers, and that clearer language should be used.

The report, Learning Options for 14 to 19-year-olds in Wales, published this summer, says nearly one-third of young people knew little or nothing about the plethora of qualifications on offer to them.

But the report also acknowledges that some progress has been made in the initiative, with more students benefiting from the support of a learning coach during the past year.

Nearly all schools and colleges now provide some elements of the Learning Pathways, which aim to give young people a wide range of academic and vocational study options. Roll-out of the scheme has been staggered until 2010 to give schools time to prepare.

Many teenagers questioned for the government survey needed thorough descriptions of the programme's six parts - including the terms "learning coaches" and "individual learning pathways" - before they expressed any familiarity with them.

"If the Learning Pathways are to become embedded and influential in young people's decision- making and choice of options, then it is important that terminology which resonates with young people is used," the report says.

It also said young people were confused because schools and colleges use different names to refer to various parts of the programme.

But Dr Phil Dixon, secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, said the most crucial factor was whether teaching staff could understand and translate the jargon for young people.

A spokeswoman for the Assembly government said it was confident that young people could make good decisions with appropriate support and guidance.

About 300 learning coaches - hailed as the vital ingredient in helping teenagers to understand the wider range of options - have already been trained in Wales, with a further 300 are on the way.

Eight out of 10 young people who had them said learning coaches made them more aware of the options available to them and helped them to make more informed decisions.

Dr Dixon said learning coaches would need training in how to use the right language to motivate young people.

But Gareth Jones, secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders Cymru, said individual schools already present information clearly to their pupils.

"Schools are adept at communicating with students in language they can understand," he said. "For example, they provide them with clear options booklets of the choices they can make."

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