Clubbers rave about the joys of learning
John Clark and Willis Pickard report from the Prince's Trust's conference on supported study.
Study support is so popular that 100 out of 130 first-year pupils at Bellshill Academy in Lanarkshire attend the Baffle Club (Bellshill Academy First For Learning and Enjoyment). Seventeen-year-old Fiona Robertson, a sixth-year pupil, told the conference immediately before Prince Charles's address: "The Baffle Club is cool. It has street cred."
As a peer tutor for the club, which meets once a week in the school, she could answer questions on a variety of subjects "because we are doing the courses at the moment and we know what pupils are on about". After an hour's study there was a 10-minute break, followed by netball, basketball and indoor hockey in which pupils "knock lumps" out of peer tutors and teachers.
The club began two years ago with an emphasis on homework and improving grades. "It makes it easier for pupils to seek help because you sometimes get embarrassed about going up to the teacher in front of your peers," Fiona explained. But the attraction was the leisure session and the chance to socialise with other classes.
There was laughter when Fiona admitted to mistakes during the first session of the Baffle Club. "I tried to be too much like a teacher - you are all control freaks with your own little empires, your own rules." If schools wanted responsible individuals they had to give responsibility to pupils. "You can ask our teachers how much they get from giving us power. About 100 per cent back. My generation has been called Generation X. We can't say no to drugs, we all take alcohol. We are violent, we don't have any style, feelings or views. We are trouble-makers."
But the Baffle Club showed that such labels were inaccurate. "We need that to mature into responsible citizens," Fiona said.
Only 8 per cent of school-leavers in Fiona's area go on to higher education. She felt she would have benefited from supported study as she struggled with maths. Now she is doing Sixth Year Studies English, Higher chemistry, maths and geography.
She would like to study English at university and is interested in journalism. She also works up to three nights a week at a McDonald's in Glasgow. "I'm quite an organised person."