Keep the bad boys busy

30th July 2004 at 01:00
'Exciting activities' promised to engage challenging teenagers. Michael Shaw reports on the coming Youth Green Paper

Badly behaved teenagers and the teachers who have to cope with them will be promised better support in a Green Paper on youth later this year.

The Government has begun work on the paper, due this autumn, which will set out policies designed to break down barriers between education and other services that work with challenging teenagers.

Youth agencies believe teachers will benefit as the reforms will make responsibilities clearer and shift some of the burden for supporting teenagers from schools to other services.

Tom Wylie, chief executive of the National Youth Agency, said: "Schools should be 100 per cent in favour of this."

The Green Paper will build on the Children Bill, which will make all authorities establish Children's Trusts to provide "joined-up" services for young people.

At its heart will be plans to give young people a "new, integrated youth offer". The Department for Education and Skills' five-year plan suggests this will guarantee a range of support, including:

* Earlier and better intervention for teenagers with poor attendance and behaviour, including improved access to specialist support where their needs cannot be handled by their schools.

* Access to "exciting and enjoyable activities" in and out of school that enhance personal and educational development.

* Easier access to personal and careers advice.

* A greater say for young people in the way local services are managed.

The DfES strategy states: "Too much support for young people is fragmented at present, with different schemes with worthwhile but overlapping aims and too many funding streams."

The National Youth Agency has already set up a working group with the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services to help with the new paper.

Mr Wylie said: "Do all the various initiatives that exist at the moment really hit the spot when it comes to helping the most disaffected and poorly-served young people? Probably not."

The Government believes that extended schools, which provide a range of services for the community outside normal hours, will play a key role.

However, Mr Wylie said it was crucial the paper helped teenagers to get greater support away from their school grounds as well.

"Some young people don't want their leisure time associated with school," he said. "There is also a danger of schools becoming like those big out-of-town hypermarkets which suck the life away from other shops."

The Secondary Heads Association said schools would be pleased with the aims of the Green Paper, but needed to examine the details. Martin Ward, deputy general secretary, said heads needed to know what extra cash they would receive to provide "exciting and enjoyable activities".

But they were glad ministers were addressing careers advice, as SHA members did not think the Connexions service had been doing a particularly good job. "Clearly it has been focusing on the most difficult cases but that seems to mean it has not been providing a good service for everyone else."

The DfES intends to work with other departments on the paper, including the Home Office and Social Exclusion Unit.

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