Slam-dunking helps disaffected

19th January 2001 at 00:00
A major sports programme led by a professional basketball player is helping keep excluded youngsters off the streets of Redcar and Cleveland.

The council has the best Audit Commission figures for providing full-time education for excludees, with 73 per cent attending for more than 20 hours a week, and another one in five for 10 to 20 hours - way ahead of other authorities.

Staff at the Eston centre, the base for the council's work, call it a school, preferring to avoid the language of units and referral centres.

"We wanted to show it was a school and that the kids do go to classes. It's a good atmospher, everyone enjoys being here. The (mainstream) schools don't want these kids, but the kids don't want to go back because they like it here," says teacher Dennis Lay, a member of the Teeside Mohawks basketball club.

Other team members are paid to act as classroom assistants or mentors, while well-behaved youngsters can join teams and take on counterparts from more conventional schools. Middlesbrough football club has also supported the sports programme.

But every pupil is on a course that will lead to some kind of accreditation, and last year there were GCSE passes to celebrate.

Karen Thornton

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