Back on track in East Neuk

27th April 2001 at 01:00
Disaffected fourth-year pupils are being put back "on track" for a brighter post-school future by a pilot scheme at Waid Academy in Anstruther.

Most of the small, previously demotivated group are now heading for a job or a college or Skillseekers place in a turnround that has confirmed the belief of the East Neuk secondary in alternative approaches.

Targeting two hours a week on social skills and pre-work preparation is bringing a personal dividend to the 14 pupils involved and a collective one to the school. Discipline referrals have mostly been brought into line with their year group and teachers report a "halo" effect in terms of work rate and interest. Attendance has risen sharply.

The project, delivered by Lynne Hunter of Fife Careers, is part of the national On Track scheme and provides further evidence of the success of focused and intensive alternative curricula. On Track combines a mix of classroom activities, visits by outsiders, including former pupils, and visits to workplaces and college. Pupils complete a progress file.

Mike Ciesla, Waid's depute head, said: "There have been improved attitudes to work, more mature responses and increases in self-motivation from the work on group ethos, team building and co-operative skills. It hasbeen significant it has been delivered by a non-teacher."

Mr Ciesla added: "The success of this approach has meant that we should, as a broad principle, be more actively investigating and developing a curriculum for those youngsters which allows them to explore and develop vocational, interpersonal, team building and personal skills - and we are."

The school raised concerns in the mid-90s about disaffected fourth-years who often failed to appear, caused problems and were noticeably reluctant to prepare for the post-school world.

Two years ago, it picked up on the On Track pilot which emphasises job competences and enterprise activities and aims to place all young people by the time they leave school at 16. The project also runs a two-year mentoring follow-up and awards a certificate of occupational competence if it is seen through.

Only one pupil has had to be removed from the project over the past two years, Mr Ciesla said.

Malcolm Barron, head of Fife Careers, said that the scheme was running in eight Fife secondaries, although it was "very intensive in resources". The careers service was trying to develop other approaches to employability for a broader range of young people who were "responding well" to existing alternatives.

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