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School-college hybrid looks like Futures

A charity providing vocational training is poised to take over a school to bring the culture of further education to younger students for the first time.

The takeover of Thorpe Bay school, one of the country's most persistent failing schools, by neighbouring work-based learning provider Prospects college was agreed in principle last week.

The pound;20 million school, expected to be called Futures community college, will teach the national curriculum to 11 to 19-year-olds. At age 14, they will "graduate" to the upper school, which will be more like a college with a wide range of vocational and academic options.

Neil Bates, chief executive of Prospects college, said: "We are trying to help people in schools become independent learners, to take responsibility for their learning, so you could say we are bringing the ethos of FE to schools.

"There will be quite a difference in the ethos between lower and upper schools.

"From working with 14 to 16-year-olds already, we learned that when you bring young people from school, it has a maturing influence. Their behaviour is different and they learn differently."

Prospects college, a registered charity, is providing pound;4.5m of the school's start-up costs, and the rest will come from the Government.

The local education authority and the Learning and Skills Council will share the running costs.

Futures is expected to open in the old school's buildings in September 2007, while its purpose-built facilities should be open the following year.

All students will be expected to do vocational work, although traditional academic subjects will be offered. Some students could be bussed out to other schools and colleges in the area to maintain a wide variety of options.

The proposed new school has been hailed by Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, as a model for trust schools, set up by voluntary organisations or business.

Mr Bates said the schools white paper legislation was not essential for their plans, but it would give the company control over the school's governing body.

Other work-based learning providers could be interested in setting up similar schools, he said.

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