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Training is key to risk-free courses for youngsters

City college Birmingham was one of the pioneers of vocational programmes for school-age children.

The courses it runs for 14 to 16-year-olds include vehicle maintenance, hairdressing, beauty therapy and catering, at five campuses, as well as a successful programme for disaffected pupils.

Liz Hough, the college's 14 to 16 assistant manager, said the key to pupil safety is good staff training to help staff manage behaviour, clear policies and procedures for working with under-16s and good partnerships with schools.

"Hopefully, at the beginning of the year, we have done all we possibly can to ensure that every child is safe and happy and on the right course, and has the right protective clothing and the right information," she said.

The college liaises with its partner schools, gathering information on incoming pupils, finding out whether they have any health problems, or whether they need additional support.

Parents have to sign a consent form, as well as agreeing to a three-way 14 to 16 college code and learning agreement.

Pupils are given an induction in health and safety during their first two weeks, and are not allowed into a workshop without protective clothing.

Ms Hough said that the students adapt well to their new environment.

She said: "They are coming here because they want to, because they have an interest in catering or motor vehicles. And they are in real-life workshops and in real kitchens.

"If that's what their career plan is, they have to learn about the practical side. We're training them to go into a profession, so it's got to be realistic. They're not playing at it. They're really doing this."

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