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Time and distance slow links

The scottish Executive's flagship programme designed to switch young people back on to learning could run into some basic problems if action is not taken.

An interim report on the Skills for Work initiative, which releases 14 to 16 year-olds to attend vocational courses, mostly in further education colleges, found that they enjoyed the experience. Colleges and schools were committed to it and were improving the ways in which they taught the programmes.

But the study, by Thomas Spielhofer of the National Foun-dation for Educational Research, said timetabling was reported to be a key problem in several schools, particularly those ferrying students to and from college.

It found that some wanted Skills for Work delivered in schools by teachers or college lecturers, to overcome transport and time-tabling difficulties and build capacity. But there was also recognition that schools lacked the facilities and expertise, and would continue to have to rely on others.

The pilot is being run over two years, involving around 40 colleges and centres in the first year and 70 in the second, with 255 schools.

The report warns that while links between schools and colleges are getting better, they are not as effective as they could be. "Some partnerships were taking steps, such as two-way visits and more systematic reporting procedures, to overcome this issue," it noted.

"There was evidence that where partnership links between schools and colleges were weaker, teachers were less likely to be aware of courses and more likely to see them as an option for badly-behaved, low ability or disengaged students.

"Another concern was that not all partnerships had managed to set up effective links with employers, due to health and safety or child protection concerns, or lack of time or contacts."

The report also warns against pupils opting into courses that conform to stereotypes only 3 per cent on construction-related courses were female. This pointed to the need for better pre-course information and guidance.

College staff should be involved in selecting students "to ensure well motivated students are selected who will not disrupt lessons".

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