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The points they made . . .

Bog-standard comprehensives are fighting back. David Henderson reports from a landmark conference hosted by North Lanarkshire

* Christmas leavers are turned off vocational education courses by current restrictions, Frank Corrigan, head of Lourdes Secondary in Glasgow, said.

"If there is one thing that will put them off education, it's being told they will have to wait six months to continue the course they are already on."

Relaxation of age and stage restrictions should surely apply, Mr Corrigan said. Young people had made considerable progress in two years doing pre-vocational courses in construction but still had to sit the entrance exam for the CITB (Construction Industry Training Board). He was concerned what happened to them after S4.

Willie Crosbie, head of Castlebrae High, Edinburgh, said a number of pupils had passed all the CITB tests and still failed to find an apprenticeship when there were constant complaints about lack of skills in the workforce.

* Peter Peacock, Education Minister, said that the state of physical education and extra-curricular sport appeared to be "significantly worse" than when he was at school in the Borders during the 1960s. Mr Peacock declined to comment further ahead of the forthcoming review of PE and sport in schools but called for far higher stress on the non-academic aspects of education.

Reflecting on the recent Commonwealth education ministers' conference in Edinburgh (page nine), he said countries did not parade their exam results at these events but celebrated their cultures by singing, dancing and reciting poetry. These dimensions had to be brought to the fore.

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