Paisley sets a pattern as unemployment halves

The Ferguslie Park initiative in Paisley, one of the four models for the Scottish Office's new all-inclusive approach to urban regeneration, reports remarkable success.

Unemployment has been more than halved in seven years, from 44 per cent in 1988 to 19 per cent in 1995, 800 homes have been built and an award-winning civic centre opened to symbolise the new "heart of the estate". The Tannahill centre hosts a wide range of activities from a community nursery to a forum for the elderly.

The initiative has focused on improving school attendance as well as attainment. Figures for the four school sessions to 1995 show that absenteeism has been cut to around 20 per cent in the final year of compulsory education and that the average number of Standard grade awards has risen from 3.6 to 5.9 per pupil, an increase in performance of 63.8 per cent.

Ferguslie Park is the only one of the four pioneering partnerships to have appointed an education officer. Christine Jess, who currently holds the post, stresses that the contribution of education cannot be seen in isolation. She attributes part of that success to the impact of Standard grade.

The Ferguslie Park initiative is also unique in having a specific education strategy. "Education and New Life", a three-year plan, was launched in March 1993. Attendance was one of nine areas identified for action. The others were establishing relationships, strategies to defeat bullying, consultation with young people, wider consultation and communication, primary-secondary transfer, pre-five schooling, post-16 education and staff development.

The programme reports "substantial progress", supported by a number of projects. Among these is a home-school-employment partnership that supports pupils through school and into employment or training. Skillbase helps 16 to 18-year-olds who lack reading, writing and presentational skills.

The results are impressive: 62 per cent of school-leavers found jobs during 1994-95 and 13 per cent undertook training.

A community-based education interest group has been established and a youth forum where educational issues can be raised. Every school has a board and a pupil council. Schools have targeted bullying, adopted policies aimed at promoting positive behaviour and introduced supported study.

A business support group sponsors attendance awards, work experience, curriculum-related initiatives, transition to work programmes and mentoring.

Wider educational opportunities for the local population hang on COATES: Community Access to Training, Education, Employment and Study. It houses an open learning centre supported by Reid Kerr College in Paisley.

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