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Refuseniks can go surfing instead

LONG-TERM school refuseniks in Glasgow are to be given home computers with Internet and e-mail links, a printer and a web camera to re-engage them in learning. The Scottish Executive is placing its financial muscle behind an innovative project that may be expanded across the country.

Up to 30 young people, drawn from chronic refusers to pregnant girls, will be involved from June in the SchoolsoutGlasgow project. They will receive face-to-face and online back-up. Older peers may become volunteer buddies.

A previous pilot showed that online learning was more productive for young people who would not go anywhere near school. They were less likely to want to learn where there was any hint of coercion or attempts to impose timetabled or supervised work.

An evaluation found that more informal and less bureaucratic approaches work better, while the curriculum needs to be "flexible, proactive, non-textual, dynamic and fluid". The latest project will in the beginning avoid an academic focus and any relation to the traditional curriculum.

If the forthcoming three-year pound;600,000 project proves successful, it could be extended to many more young people with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties in special units, day provision and those already receiving home tuition.

Glasgow, like other authorities, is now duty bound to provide appropriate education for every child and young person and believes there must be better ways to engage several hundred "interrupted learners".

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