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Neet group figures 'utter tosh'

Like Ian Finlay in your last week's issue, I was appalled to read the report of the conference on the problems posed by the Neet group (TESS, November 24).

It was organised by Learning and Teaching Scotland, the Smith Group and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, and you would have expected the event to be a repository of knowledge on the subject. It was not.

You report Graham Short, director of education in East Ayrshire, as saying there was a need for more information because there was little in the way of hard data. Yet it is clear from Mr Finlay's letter that such information does exist.

As he highlights, Neet is a statistical category describing those who are not in employment, education or training. It is not a fixed group, it does not equate with those who have no qualifications and it includes well qualified youngsters enjoying a gap year before going to university.

Many youngsters fall into the group when they are in transition; membership is not permanent and the implication that the group will grow by a further 15,000 people next year is utter tosh.

What is seriously worrying is that the Smith Group is currently very powerful in directing education policy. It includes several millionaires and is apparently imposing solutions on education without actually bothering to find out the facts.

As a result, we now have the prospect of the compulsory schooling age being extended to 18 for those in the Neet group. This proposal, suggested by several in the Smith Group has now been put forward by Jack McConnell as Labour policy after the next election. Does this also mean we'll have a Christmas leavers' class for those who are only 17 years old at the end of their sixth year?

Business often argues that core skills are more important than knowledge.

For my part, I've often found that knowing what I was talking about was pretty important too.

Judith Gillespie development manager, Scottish Parent Teacher Council

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