Leavers paint over the gap to adulthood

26th June 1998 at 01:00
The need to keep pupils in school after their GCSEs has spawned a creative scheme in Manchester. Paul Rowinski reports.

Sixteen-year-olds set to leave a Manchester school this summer are signing off with a flourish. Rather than idle their way through the final weeks of term the teenagers are using the time to hone their computer skills - and paint classrooms.

In a move to encourage more pupils to take exams, the law has been changed so that no one can legally leave school at Easter in their final year. This has led to schools finding ways of occupying teenagers between the end of their GCSEs and the end of term.

Copley High School in Stalybridge, Tameside, has dubbed its scheme ACE - the After Copley Experience. ACE is all about pupils putting back into the school what they have got out of it. They each attend workshops, help out in school and have a feedback session with Jim Joyce, the headteacher.

The workshops are being held at nearby Ashton Sixth Form College, the two most popular courses proving to be Getting to Grips With Graphics and desk-top publishing. They also undertake work experience under the guidance of Copley department heads.

As well as helping laboratory technicians in the school and acting as library assistants, the most popular pursuit among the leavers appears to be re-painting classrooms.

The piece de la resistance will come when the 160 pupils will be divided into four groups and have a face-to-face brainstorming session with Mr Joyce.

They will be encouraged to reflect candidly on their time at Copley in a feedback session. The school hopes this will be useful to help future pupils at the school.

Debbie Ball, senior teacher, said of the two-week experiment: "It has been brilliant. Some pupils have been saying: 'Look I have not finished the job, can I come back tomorrow?' I have had really good feedback from the staff, saying children are acting maturely."

The school will hold a leavers' assembly at the end of the week, saying goodbye to the teenagers for the last time.

Ms Ball said of ACE:"The pupils have been under a lot of stress, because of exam pressure. This has been an opportunity to spend quality time with them and let them put something back into the school. It is a nice way of finishing off."

Under new Government rules schools are bound to complete the register until the end of June. Otherwise children will be classed as absent, thus adversely affecting attendance figures.

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