Teenagers who plead to work during holidays

21st March 2008 at 00:00

A college project to bring teens back into education has had them pleading to be allowed to come in during the holidays.

Since September, West Nottinghamshire College has recruited about 150 students on courses in subjects from motorcycle mechanics to fashion design, combined with literacy and numeracy.

Sandra Cowley, the project manager, said some of the teenagers had barely been to school in the previous two years, but that relevant courses, a more adult environment and dedicated support had brought them back into education.

She said this approach was more likely to succeed than making school, college or workplace training compulsory until the age of 18.

"Compulsory education is trying to fit people into the same box," she said. "But life isn't like that. Learners who have hardly been at school in two years have never missed a day of courses here.

"It's because they feel a sense of ownership and they are treated like adults. At half term, we had them saying, `Can we come in and catch up on our work?'

"The problem is that when they're here, they love it, but when they go away for two weeks, there's nothing else.

"We've got 16-year-olds saying, `Will you read to us?' We recognise there is a need here. It's about listening and trying to find out what they really want."

School leavers, many of whom have had poor attendance at school, are referred to the college courses through the Connexions service after the advisers were briefed on the programme.

Some teenagers had been forced to miss school through personal circumstances. Others were simply turned off.

Ms Cowley said this was a conscious attempt to create a supportive environment at the campus in Ashfield, about two miles from the college's main site.

She said: "Everybody down to the dinner lady who is serving them food will know the students by name and say, `How are you? Are you all right?'"

The programme also provides incentives for students to attend and work hard, but these are linked to the curriculum with educational trips for fashion students to visit a fashion show, or motorcycle repair students to attend a motorcycle exhibition.

Students are also gradually introduced a day at a time to the main college sites to follow their subjectsand to prepare them for moving on to higher level study.

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