The largest single effort in the UK to tackle truancy and failure has been launched in Greater Manchester under a #163;5 million training and enterprise council-funded scheme.
Schools, individually or in partnership with other schools or colleges, will be invited to bid for cash to tackle pupil underachievement or low attendance. The initiative - created by Manchester TEC, Manchester, Tameside, Trafford and Salford councils, the Careers Partnershi p and the Further Education Funding Council - is called Strategy for Youth.
Schools will be invited to find ways of boosting the performance and attendance of 14- to 19-year-olds in danger of dropping out of school or college. The first bids are expected to be made next month and initiatives should be running by June.
The urgent need to tackle problems among 14 to 19-year-olds was highlighted in recent Home Office statistics which revealed that among disaffected pupils, one in four boys and one in five girls slipped into crime, with around one in 10 arrested for crimes of violence.
Latest data from the TEC National Council showed that truants dominated the 600,000 18- to 25-year-olds who were registered unemployed.
Government cash has been targeted at initiatives in which TECs are expected to find partners to match funding. Durham TEC recently launched a #163;2 million scheme to fund a personal development programme for every young person identified as in danger.
The Greater Manchester fund will be available over seven years, with #163;2.2m from the Single Regeneration Budget, channelled through the TEC,and nearly #163;3m from the partner organisations.
It was decided to launch the strategy in Manchester TEC area because the number of pupils achieving GCSE A-C grades is nearly 10 per cent lower than the national average of 43.5 per cent.
Truancy in Manchester is up to three times the national average (2.8 per cent against 1 per cent) and youth unemployment is 14 per cent - double the national average.
In Manchester, the numbers of young people leaving school with no qualifications is 50 per cent above the national average - 12.35 against the average of 8.1 per cent.
Richard Guy, Manchester TEC chief executive, said: "This partnership brings the public and private sector together. For the first time we can decide on actions which link education to training and work. We will work with schools, colleges, training providers and others to have a real effect on the achievement and enjoyment of our young people."
Roy Jobson, Manchester' s chief education officer, said: "Lack of examination success and unemployment often go hand-in-hand and are very real problems which face young people throughout Greater Manchester. The partnership has been formed to provide a collective and innovative approach to dealing with this problem among 14- to 19-year-olds in the region. Its success will be seen in the years to come when we hope to see a very real improvement both in examination results among 14- to 19-year-olds and in the numbers of students aged 16-plus pursuing further education studies."
Some initiatives already under way which are expected to be widely developed are homework clubs, adult literacy groups and mentoring.