How the 'lost' found their way

28th August 2009 at 01:00
College alternative to traditional schooling has set some challenging youngsters on the right course, with amazing results

It was like a school prize-giving, with rows of teenagers sitting at the front, proud parents at the back - only, the excitement was palpable, tensions rising by the minute to a frenzy of catcalls and whoops of delight.

The kids were so proud of themselves and their mates. Not for one minute would you think they did not enjoy education - it was 11 in the morning, at Glasgow City Chambers, but they were turned out in their finest party frocks, pink and glittery, eye-catching and glamorous. And that was just the girls. They were here to celebrate.

Success is not a word normally associated with these youngsters. "Lost their way" is how they were described by Glasgow's vocational training manager, Maureen Baird. These are 15 to 16 year olds who should have been in S4 at school and often displayed "extremely challenging behaviour". Most are looked after by their local authority and some are accommodated in children's units. The majority have involvement with social work services and other support agencies such as psychological services.

But at the end-of-year ceremony this summer, they showed what they - and Glasgow's EVIP programme - can achieve. The Enhanced Vocational Inclusion Programme offers youngsters an alternative to traditional schooling. Run by the city's education services in partnership with local colleges, Careers Scotland and other partners, its main aim is to enable vulnerable young people who have become disengaged to study for a vocational qualification, together with core and life skills, on a full-time basis for one year.

Over 70 youngsters completed full-time programmes in hospitality, beauty, hairdressing, motor vehicle maintenance, construction, landscaping or early education and childcare. These were delivered by John Wheatley, Clydebank, Glasgow Metropolitan and North Glasgow colleges and the Glasgow College of Nautical Studies, where they can take nationally recognised Skills for Work awards, National Progression Awards or City and Guilds.

Each year, EVIP targets around 100 youngsters across the city. Courses run throughout the academic session in high-technology simulated environments and the real workplace where possible, and each group has a dedicated EVIP officer who acts as mentorlife coach.

"My time at EVIP has been good because I have met new friends and I enjoy doing beauty therapy," writes Jade Leigh Hutcheson in a letter displayed at the back of the hall.

What it doesn't reveal is that Jade got up at five every morning to get from a foster placement in Saltcoats to Easterhouse every day by public transport, and was never late. That's how much her placement meant to her. It was a remarkable achievement, said a council spokeswoman, for a young person who had found it difficult to attend her local school. Jade's overall attendance on EVIP was 86 per cent.

Other letters tell different stories.

"I have learned how to build a wall, fix a toilet, paint a wall and weld metal," writes the multi-skilled Marc Lang. "EVIP has been good for me because I have had practice for work and it has made me more mature."

Jason Boyd liked the programme better than school, because it was not as hard and he didn't have to do so many subjects. "When I started at college, I didn't have much confidence, but that is all changed . I have had a lot of fun cooking in the kitchens and my favourite has been baking chocolate eclairs and profiteroles. These were well tasty . I would like a career as a chef."

Sean MacLauchlan spoke from the platform about his course in Motor Vehicle Maintenance at Clydebank College, and taking part in teambuilding activities and five-aside football. "I'm glad I got a place at EVIP," he said. "I don't know what I would have done . I have applied for an apprenticeship. If I don't get it, I have a place at Clydebank College.

His mum Heather, who introduced herself as "the proud mother of Sean", explained what EVIP meant to their family. Sean was in mainstream education until secondary, then everything started to "fall apart", she said. "Education for Sean was no longer the place to be. Attainment and attendance began to drop; he had no self-esteem."

She looked for help at the school, the social work department and the psychological services, but had "no luck". Then someone told her about the programme.

"EVIP changed our lives," she said. "Once Sean began to have a positive outlook, so did the rest of the family. Michele, my wee angel - Sean's lecturer - was there 247. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. On behalf of all parents and everyone here today, thank you very much . for believing in these children."

As Maureen Baird said in her closing remarks, it brought a tear to your eye.


Jade Leigh Hutcheson (right) moved to Hillpark Secondary when she returned home to live with her mum and sister in September 2007, having been in foster care in Arran.

She was refusing to attend school as she found it difficult to settle in. The instability of her home life had a severe impact on her self- belief.

Jade and her mother suffered from a precarious relationship, and the family became homeless. She was eventually accommodated by Glasgow City Council under a supervision requirement from a children's hearing, and still lives in a foster placement in Ayrshire. She needed a different perspective in her life, and was referred by her pastoral care teacher for a place on EVIP. After an interview and taster session, she got a place on the full-time beauty programme at John Wheatley College.

As part of her qualification, Jade has dealt with customers in a real salon, as part of a team, and worked in make-up artistry. Her self- motivation, determination to succeed and application allowed her to overcome her difficulties and work for a National Progression Award in cosmetology.

Because of her enthusiasm and hard work, she was selected by her EVIP officer to do a week's work experience with a local employer, which boosted her confidence. She also worked with young children in an early years establishment, and helped organise beauty clinics for students and staff.

As a result of her efforts on the programme, Jade won Best Overall Performance - Beauty. She is returning to John Wheatley College this term as a mainstream student, and has a bright future ahead of her.

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