Another strategy in meltdown

20th June 2008 at 01:00
Yet again we have more warnings from teachers that a flagship Assembly government strategy could hit the rocks
Yet again we have more warnings from teachers that a flagship Assembly government strategy could hit the rocks. Two years before full roll-out of the 14-19 learning pathways, secondary headteachers say it could be facing meltdown.

It's the same old story; a lack of funding and staff. It really is a case of deja vu. Instead of learning support assistants we now find out that learning coaches, believed to be the lynchpins of the 14-19 vocational experience, could be too few in number. And how will schools afford them? But, whereas the foundation phase was a popular scheme, there have always been reservations about the 14-19 ideal, which emanates from the much-criticised Chapman Report.

Collaboration between schools and colleges, the crux of this initiative, will continue to generate resistance while schools are funded on pupil numbers. There are areas where it works well. But there are also heads at their wits end with proposals for a new law making them work with their FE colleges for the good of wider pupil choice. And as Dr Phil Dixon, secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru says this week, courses on offer look likely to decline with job cuts. It is not so rosy for the sector.

Students need a wider variety but if the basic requirements of the scheme are not met, it has lost any clout. Officials have shifted the focus to early years, but they must not take post-14 education off the radar at such a critical time.

This week we are told that Wales's 13-year-olds drink more alcohol then anywhere else in the Western world. And this is where the 14-19 pathways is at its best, providing a one-to-one mentor to help young people carve out better futures.

It is right to focus on the early years, but we must not forget that teenagers also have needs, as well as rights, to a decent life free from crime, poverty and little hope.

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