All they want is fame

23rd June 2006 at 01:00
School-leavers live on the dole and avoid study while they hold out for celebrity and riches. Nicola Porter reports

Some school-leavers go on the dole because they are holding out for fame and wealth on reality TV programmes, it was claimed this week.

Big Brother housemate Glyn Wise could become a role model for Welsh youngsters, but not because he is a high-achieving A-level student or a head-boy.

The lure of a celebrity lifestyle over a perceived "mundane and low-paid job" was given as a reason why some less academic pupils may shun work or further education at school-leaving age.

A new survey by Careers Wales, a jobseekers' advice centre, found the number of youngsters who left Year 11 and did not go into full-time education, training or employment (NEETS) is at its highest level since 1999.

The survey found there were 2,634 school-leavers - 6.8 per cent - not in full-time education, training or employment last year. In 1999, the percentage for NEETS was only slightly higher at 6.9 per cent, despite it being targeted by the Assembly government.

But careers teachers said they had seen a growth in the number of teenagers who "wanted to become famous".

One gave the example of Big Brother winner Jade Goody, now a C-list celebrity with thousands in the bank, as an example of what pupils believed was achievable.

Sue Hetenyi, head of careers at Fitzalan high, in Cardiff, said lack of motivation was not a problem among pupils who came from the city's Butetown, recently named as the most deprived area of Europe.

She said: "When I ask pupils what they want from a career they say money is their motivation - they have high expectations and are reaching for the stars.

"Many want to be footballers and live like David Beckham. Going on a training course for pound;65 per week can be off-putting."

Ms Hetenyi said modern apprenticeship schemes could be hard to get on and many pupils could not achieve the required four A-C grade GCSEs, including English and maths.

Dave Parsons, head of careers at Bryn Hafren comprehensive school in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, said pupils were in awe of tabloid tales of the lavish lifestyles of the rich and famous. But Rhys Williams, communications manager for the National Union of Teachers Cymru, said a lack of ambition was more to blame.

He said: "Years ago, many school-leavers went on to jobs their dad did - down the pit or local steelworks. Raising aspirations to be different is a huge task."

The number of 15-year-olds leaving full-time education with no recognised qualification is more of a success story, with the number falling by more than a fifth since 1999.

The report, Pupil destinations for 2005, was based on a survey of all Y11-13 pupils. Sixth forms are still more popular for Y11 pupils opting to stay in full-time education, especially among girls.

In Y11, 75.6 per cent of pupils went on to full-time education, with 5.1 per cent finding jobs. A higher percentage of girls - 10 percentage points more - went on to full-time education than boys.

The rest of the cohort went on to non-employed, work-based training ((6.6 per cent), with 2 per cent going on to employed work-based training. A further 1.8 per cent of pupils failed to respond, with 1 per cent shown to have left the area.

Dr Philip Dixon, director of theJJAssociation ofJJTeachers andJJLecturers Cymru, claimed the least academic teenagersJfrom the most disadvantaged backgrounds believed they were "waiting for a stroke of luck".J "They hope to win the lottery because they don't think they will make it any other way," he said. We need pupils toJbe inspired by theJplumbers who are making good money and driving a fast car, not PremiershipJfootballers."

An Assembly government spokesperson said: "We aim to develop a European Structural Fund application for 2007 to form the basis of an action plan for a yearly reduction in the number of young people who are not in education, employment or training."

* nicola.porter@tes.co.uk

news 3, leader 22

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