'Wicked' that teens leave school early

Educational psychologists could help tackle Scotland's "wicked" issue of teenagers leaving education at the earliest opportunity.

Trudy Sharp, head of the not in education, employment or training (Neet) division of the Scottish Executive, called for the profession to work with other agencies in tackling the problem. "It is about leadership and taking ownership. It is important that this comes at the top of the agenda," she told the annual conference of educational psychologists in Scotland.

There are 35,000 people aged 16-19 in the Neet group in Scotland, said Ms Sharp, which is around 13.5 per cent of the age group. She called for a focus on those in the 16-19 Neet group, closely followed by a look at younger teenagers.

"It is not giving up on them. It is picking them up when they find they have gone down a blind alley, to help them get where they want to be when they are 19," she said.

One potential solution, post-school psychological services (PSPS), was discussed at the conference. Tommy MacKay, director of Psychology Consultancy Services, described how a two-year PSPS pathfinder pilot had produced successful results in a Scottish Executive study published in July.

"Scotland is leading the world in PSPS. I believe it is another first for Scotland," he said. "(Before we started) there was no parallel elsewhere in the world."

The projects were set up in 12 local authorities over two years, 2004-06.

"Pathfinders were clearly different from the controls across almost every area of post-school activity," said Mr MacKay.

"PSPS was highly valued by all and led to a vast number of improvements for young people."

He said pilots had also "added value to the post-school sector and the young people it services".

Key was the participation of further and higher education, and he described Dundee and Strathclyde universities as using PSPS "solidly" within the pilot.

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