An insult to 14-year-olds?

13th June 2003 at 01:00
It was with sadness and increasing frustration that I read your report " Teenage backlash ahead, warns union " (FE Focus, May 30).

Creating a general impression of 14 to 16-year-olds running amok in colleges not only undermines the staff who have worked long and hard to ensure this initiative is a success, it also insults the ability and character of young people.

The concerns listed by Natfhe in relation to staff having the right skills, knowledge and support to do the job effectively are equally applicable to teaching infants, post-16 students or adult learners. The Increased Flexibility Programme provides funding for school-college partnerships, which could include training.

But the key word here, and one missing from the reported debate, is partnership. Schools and colleges negotiate selection criteria and pupil management policies. This is what stops schools "dumping" their most troublesome young people on colleges. It is also what supports the development of an enhanced and exciting curriculum for all, rather than an alternative curriculum for a few.

Developing partnerships is a priority for our college. This academic year we delivered vocational courses to more than 400 14 to 16-year-olds from 18 schools. We recruit across the ability range and have a dedicated programme for those excluded from school. Our key stage 4 enhanced curriculum involves more than 30 tutors from 10 vocational areas and has had an attendance rate of 93 per cent, retention rate of 97 per cent and progression rate of 80 per cent.

True, we have excluded two pupils for unacceptable behaviour but implementation of the behaviour management policy has ensured that others have re-engaged effectively. Anecdotal evidence from tutors, teachers and young people, supported by performance indicators, demonstrates this initiative is both valuable and workable.

Claire George

14-19 Pathfinder Manager

Boston College

Skirbeck Road, Boston, Lincolnshire

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