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Secrets of their success

RACHEAL FISHER, 15

Racheal Fisher (top) has attended a further education college for two years since she was permanently excluded from school in Year 9.

Boston college offered her support and involved her in team building exercises. It also opened up a range of opportunities in vocational areas, from plumbing to hairdressing.

Racheal, turning 16 this summer, has completed a number of courses including health and social care, key skills and maths. She is currently studying for a GNVQ in leisure and tourism and hopes to become a holiday representative.

She says college has suited her better than school and she gets on well with her lecturers. "It's been a good experience," she says. "It's more relaxed than school. Everyone just gets on with what they're supposed to do.

"I think it's because you wear your own clothes, which makes you feel relaxed and more yourself, so you don't want to misbehave. You're treated more like an adult. At school you're just a student, and because there are so many of them, they don't know who you are. But at college they know you personally, and they know your background and everything - they can help you out."

RYAN HENDERSON, 16

Spending one afternoon a week in college has helped Ryan Henderson (left) towards his chosen career as an engineer. A Year 11 pupil at St Thomas More Catholic school in Tyne and Wear, Ryan enrolled on the young apprenticeship programme 18 months ago. His time at South Tyneside college has given him the chance to work in a fully-equipped engineering workshop. The course includes practical skills and theory and has given him a head start in gaining engineering skills, alongside his traditional GCSE subjects.

How does it compare with school? "There's a lot more freedom," he says. "If you have a problem and can't do the work, you ask them. They're more than happy to come over and help, but once you've sorted the problem out they leave you to get on with it again."

His grounding in engineering has paid off. This summer, Ryan starts as an apprentice fitter with the truck manufacturer Scania. "All my family are engineers - it's in my blood," he says. "They're chuffed to bits."

EMMA ATKIN, 17

Emma Atkin (above) suffered from bullying at school and left in Year 11, her self-confidence shattered. Now, two years later, she has her sights set on studying the performing arts at university - her ambition is to come back to her college to teach dance. "I would like to help other people the way they helped me," she says.

She began attending Boston college in Lincolnshire for one day a week, taking a BTec in health and social care. Now 17, she is studying for a national diploma in performing arts. "There's a big difference in me from when I started there," she says. "They weren't just teaching you. They were there for you all the way through, on personal stuff as well as being your tutor.

"Before, I couldn't stand up in front of people without feeling nervous.

But they recognised that and helped me through it, and gradually my confidence built up. They didn't put me under pressure, but encouraged me to do performing arts.

"College is completely different to school - words can't really describe the difference. It's much more relaxed. You're not pushed to learn as much, but it's more about encouragement than saying you have to learn this. They treat you like adults, basically."

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