Envoys for the worth of learning

28th April 2006 at 01:00
The conference heard of a number of initiatives to engage pupils and guard against the risk they might fall into the NEET net.

Among these, Sir Tom Hunter was probably relieved to learn, was Cumnock Academy (left), his old school, which is ranked number 50 in the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation.

Gordon Bell, the headteacher, commended the Columba 1400 "ambassadors programme" on Skye in which 13 third-year pupils and three staff took part.

He said it helped pupils develop awareness, focus, creativity and perseverance. It also proved useful in developing attitudes of service as well as positive leadership skills.

Mr Bell said: "The pupils developed a desire to make things better in the school and community, and they developed positive leadership skills. At least two of the pupils already had leadership skills, but not the kind I would want them to have.

"Prior to going to Skye, one pupil was on her last legs in school. She has changed remarkably - she's not perfect but a lot better. Another lad used to be at my door all the time and I was on the phone to his mother every second day; now he's no trouble."

The ambassadors then worked with Strathclyde University summer academy staff on delivering problem-solving experiences for P7 and S1 pupils.

The school is well-placed to act because it has access to additional staff support as an integrated community school. There is also specific support for looked-after children and a youth strategy for behavioural difficulties.

And, in a move strongly favoured by Nicol Stephen, Lifelong Learning Minister, and the Smith group which is advising ministers on the NEET issue, Cumnock has had a Careers Scotland staffer working in the school with S3 and S4 pupils.

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