Don't let them miss out

30th May 2008 at 01:00
Scottish secondary education should do more to help young people prepare for the future

Scottish secondary education should do more to help young people prepare for the future

Scotland's Senior Chief Inspector of Education has challenged schools to take more responsibility for preventing their pupils from falling into the so-called Neet group.

To help them support Scottish youngsters who struggle to move into employment, education or training from school, HMIE has today published Count Us In: We're Still Here. The guide has been produced "specifically to support secondary schools in improving the experiences and successes of all their pupils", says Graham Donaldson.

One in eight Scottish youngsters does not move into employment, education or training; and a further substantial group enters low-paid employment with little opportunity.

"We need to do better," concludes Mr Donaldson.

Scottish secondary education does not enable a significant minority of young people, particularly those from poorer backgrounds, to achieve at school. Nor does it equip them for the future, he says.

"For this significant minority of young people, we need robust transition processes that enable them to take advantage of the choices and services available, which in turn will improve their longer-term chances in life."

The document is in five parts, based on the broad areas identified in its 2006 Missing Out report as typifying schools which were successful in addressing the needs of all their pupils. They are:

- leadership and a shared vision;

- partnerships, including those with parents and families;

- teaching that provides the highest-quality learning experiences;

- reflection on practice that values people;

- an ethos of ambition and achievement.

Aimed at school leaders, pastoral care, support and teaching staff who work with young people preparing to leave school, the report includes examples of good practice which have helped pupils to move on successfully.

It also highlights the key factors which enable smooth transitions. These include learning experiences which engage and motivate and encourage attendance; positive and supportive relationships with staff; recognition of, and respect for, young people's emerging adulthood; and listening to young people, taking their views seriously and responding positively where possible.

"The challenge for secondary schools," Mr Donaldson continues, "is to take more responsibility for being pro-active in developing effective partnerships with other agencies and to put in place robust processes which will smooth the transition."

GOOD PRACTICE EXAMPLES

Cardinal Newman High in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire, prepared young people for employment or training by providing a focus on vocational experiences in S3-4 through a dedicated vocational options column. Other options include digital photography and institutional banking.

As a School of Ambition and one of North Lanarkshire's "enhanced comprehensives", specialising in hospitality, the school set up a professional kitchen and restaurant which enables pupils to take the Intermediate 2 professional cooking course. HMIE found pupils were positive about their learning experiences in these simulated environments.

All activities were wholly sustainable by the school, but it had a strong partnership with Motherwell College. Staff from both insitutions delivered a range of vocational courses in the school and teaching styles and methodologies were shared.

For instance, a college lecturer and a professional chef helped deliver hospitality courses run by the school through the home economics department. The lessons by the chef provided highly motivational experiences which helped young people develop their knowledge and skills.

HMIE acknowledges that the inclusion of vocational options can cause problems with timetabling. Suggestions on how to overcome this can be found in "Preparing for Work", a report on the Skills for Work pilot programme.

The Three Towns Motor Project in North Ayrshire offered young people who had become disaffected with school a curriculum option focusing on motor vehicles, managed by the community learning and development department. It was effective in providing accredited and non-accredited learning through partnerships between schools, colleges and youth organisations. One learner said: "I attended the project because the school said that, if I stopped truanting, I would get out of school for four periods on a Wednesday to work on cars. I want to be a mechanic, so I'm getting experience."

Renfrewshire council's New Directions programme, run within Reid Kerr College, was also a success story, with 80 per cent of the "challenging" pupils who attended moving on to positive destinations. The programme offered supported learning opportunities to students who at school had displayed challenging behaviour and showed signs of disengagement. The small group setting worked well; it provided meaningful courses, strong pastoral support and recognition of students' achievements through Access, Intermediate and Awards Scheme Development and Accreditation Network (ASDAN) certification, merit awards and an awards ceremony. Elective elements included hospitality, hairdressing, construction, engineering, computing, design and make, creative arts, care and health. The 11 secondaries that took part reported significant improvements in attendance and achievement for most pupils.

West Lothian's Sure Start project, Young mums @ school, supported the inclusion of vulnerable, pregnant girls by encouraging them to be ambitious and to prepare for and chart a pathway into post-school education. A specialist worker provided home-based support. Funded childminders allowed them to attend lessons and sit examinations.

See page 17.

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