Run for cover as the minors strike

21st January 2005 at 00:00
The great and the good of further education show no sign of losing their enthusiasm for the social experiment of allowing 14 to 16-year-olds into colleges.

So how's it going? Not too well, according to what has been witnessed by some of the older students who have found themselves rubbing shoulders with the influx of children.

A mole in the National Union of Students tells me it has a rapidly-growing file of incidents which suggest that, at the same time as giving children a taste of college, the scheme is giving students a timely reminder of the kind of environment some of them enjoyed while still at school.

Here are some of the incidents which have been brought to my attention:

* Students presented a principal with a protest petition after the novelty of having to break up fights between the younger teenagers began to wear off.

* An adult with a conviction for under-age sex nearly got himself elected to a student union post until his past was discovered by a suspicious student.

* Such was the extent of one pupil's "disaffection" that he punched a security guard through a plate glass window.

* A bus driver found the 14-16s he picked up from a college were so rowdy that he drove straight to the nearest police station.

* A finance director approached an unaccompanied minor wandering around a college campus, only for the child to throw a pint of milk at him. It turned out the "minor" was in fact a 14-16 pupil.

For those of you who think you need toughening up in readiness for 14-plus, I can recommend a spell in prison, the ultimate school of hard knocks for lecturers.

Lecturers' union Natfhe is supporting one of its prison education members at Brixton who claims she found herself locked in a room with a group of unsupervised inmates.

One minute she was talking to a couple of students when, suddenly, off went the "lock-in bell", which sounds when prisoners need to be locked in at short notice to keep them from wandering around the prison.

As it went off, a group of inmates was led into the room, and the door locked behind lecturer and prisoners alike.

She's made a complaint to her employer, Reed Learning, which has the prison education contract.

A spokesman for Reed tells me: "We have received a complaint regarding this incident which is currently under investigation. We take the security of our staff very seriously and we have not used the room in question since we received the complaint."

Sounds like a good idea.

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