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MP's bid to stop FE leavers

Secondary schools could be given key roles in vocational education for 16 to 18-year-olds under proposals put forward by an MP.

Graham Allen, concerned at the number of teenagers who drop out of college, plans to turn the seven secondaries in his constituency into centres of vocational training.

The Labour member for Nottingham North has won approval for his plan from Ivan Lewis, minister for skills and vocational education, following an adjournment debate in the House of Commons.

He called the debate in an effort to address the low staying-on rate in his constituency, which sends the fewest number of youngsters to university of any in the UK.

He now plans to put together a joint proposal from the Learning and Skills Council and the local education authority, to get some schools on board by September.

Mr Allen hopes the pilot will be followed in other areas where staying-on rates are low. "If we can make it work in Nottingham North, it will be easier to make it work elsewhere," he said.

"We would like to see each of our schools offer two or three vocational possibilities to help to break this awful culture where schools are seen as a prison that you get let out of at 16.

"There are two superb FE colleges in Nottingham, yet there is a high drop-out rate in this age group. Taking vocational courses in school could give the young people a taste for taking FE courses afterwards."

Nottingham's two FE institutions, People's college and New college, and the city's two universities have agreed to supply teachers and funding to assist the scheme, he added. He said co-operation between colleges and schools "could ensure that our young people are suitable for the technical and skilled craft jobs our local economy is crying out for".

The MP said he expects Tomlinson to support his proposal. "This is exactly the type of flexibility we hope Tomlinson will encourage," he said.

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