Battle to halt school drop-out numbers

ONE in three youngsters in Suffolk are dropping out of education completely at the age of 16 - falling “significantly” short of the national average, an education boss has warned.

ONE in three youngsters in Suffolk are dropping out of education completely at the age of 16 - falling “significantly” short of the national average, an education boss has warned.

And, of those staying in education in the county, only about 40 per cent go on to take A-level or equivalent qualifications.

Education chiefs are looking at ways to improve the uptake of further education, including abolishing smaller sixth forms, offering more courses and encouraging businesses to get young staff into recognised apprenticeship schemes.

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC), in partnership with Suffolk County Council, is planning to transfer further education in some parts of the county into new all-encompassing 16-19 colleges in a bid to boost Suffolk's long-term prosperity.

Last year, the uptake of pupils into 16-18 further education at any level, including company training, was 5pc lower than the national average.

Judith Mobbs, the LSC's area director for Suffolk, said: “The big challenge is getting young people in appropriate training. It is worse here because of the transport issues in Suffolk.

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“We are doing a lot to tackle this, such as 16-19 centres, offering more courses to our students and providing new programmes of employment.

“If young people do not get the chance to go on the right courses for them, they are more than likely to drop out.”

Ipswich will be the first area of the county to introduce a new all-purpose 16-19 centre, opening in 2010, with a centre in Lowestoft currently being proposed in a public consultation.

Mrs Mobbs said apprenticeships would also be crucial over the coming years and added the LSC's current initiatives were part of a strategy to tackle the Government's move to make education compulsory for students up to the age of 18.

n. What do you think should be done to attract more youngsters to stay in education? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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