A SCHEME to help disaffected and disadvantaged pupils has notched up its first success in Scotland. On Track "graduates" have received their certificates at the end of the school session from one of the new members of the Scottish Parliament, Jackie Baillie, who represents Dumbarton.
The three-year programme is being piloted by Dunbartonshire and Lomond Careers Services. The scheme, which originated in the United States, was brought over here through East Lancashire six years ago.
Marjory Logue Dunbartonshire's client services manager, explains its principles: "There are three elements to the programme: enterprise activities, job competencies and individual support.
"The first is student-led and involves each group having its own bank account. Participants are required to raise funds for any outing or social events they want to organise," says Ms Logue.
"The job competencies are cross-referenced to the Royal Sun Alliance's key skills portfolio.
"Individual support reviews, activities and competencies become more career oriented towards the end of the three years. At the start it is general, focused on soft skills to get the pupils to re-engage with the curriculum. This might also involve workshops on managing behaviour."
The programme is voluntary. Pupils are selected during their third year of secondary school. After a careers adviser presentation, they are interviewed and, if they agree to go on the programme, are asked to sign a commitment along with their parents.
Even if a pupil opts out of the group, the careers adviser remains committed and the bi-monthly individual meetings continue for the following two years.
"The voluntary aspect is crucial to success," Ms Logue says, "and, as it is student led, they soon learn to challenge in a non-agressive way any executive decisions in which they've not been involved. I think that proves how empowered these sometimes extremely disadvantaged pupils can feel.
"If we are serious about social inclusion, then programmes like On Track should be expanded to give more pupils the opportunity."
After one year, she believes that On Track in her area will exceed the national average for success. "National figures are achieving 82 per cent and we are confident we can exceed this," she says. "Pupils say the programme allows them to be in control and makes them feel responsible and respected."
Dunbartonshire and Lomond Careers Services. Tel: 0141 762 0072