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Saturday, 23-September-2006
(Scotsmannews)- - YOUTH workers have been brought into city classrooms to help teachers educate vulnerable and problem pupils.

A pioneering £20,000-a-year scheme, which was launched at Queensferry Community High School last year as education leaders attempted to reach out to disaffected youngsters, has been hailed a success.

It was introduced at Tynecastle High at the start of the current term, and similar initiatives could now be rolled at other schools in Edinburgh as the council attempts to get more teachers and youth workers working side by side.

The Queensferry High scheme involves 14 and 15-year-old children who have suffered bullying, friendship breakdowns, low confidence, family problems, self harm, and school-related stress, attending special classes for three hours a week.

There, instead of working toward Standard grades, 18 youngsters take part in a Princes Trust XL scheme under the guidance of both a teacher and a youth worker.

The council believes these children are most at risk of playing truant and dropping out of school. The youth workers have been brought in because they are thought to have a better chance of connecting with the youngsters than teachers.

Claire Spence, a youth worker at Queensferry, said: "Our approach is a lot more informal - young people can relate to that.

"We have also got the ability to give young people one-to-one support. We are also able to help them out with other aspects of their life, if they need it.

"If the programme was not there, these children would probably disengage with education - some certainly would.

"But of the children who finished S4 last year, three have stayed on to the fifth year, two have got full-time jobs, and the rest have all gone to college.

"None are wasting their lives doing nothing."

A city council spokeswoman said: "If it was not for this initiative these children could have been truanting, and getting into trouble outwith school.

"Now they are well placed to get jobs and are going on into further education. This scheme is making a real difference to their lives.

"Since the creation of the council's children and families department, teachers and youth workers are under the same management structure. Closer working between the two groups is certainly something we would like to see."

The scheme has also received the backing of the EIS teachers union. Colin Mackay, Edinburgh secretary, said: "One of the things that is good about this initiative is that it attempts to make education relevant to children who might be school-phobic. That's to be applauded. It shows a flexibility of approach to finding a way of engaging with these youngsters."

Margaret MacFarlane, headteacher at Queensferry High School, said: "This project has been extremely successful. It is so encouraging to see these young people who really needed an avenue for their own creativity and enthusiasm to succeed in this way.

"The projects inspire and interest the pupils, which keeps them in school. It has been incredibly refreshing to watch the youth workers and teachers work as a team to provide the right environment for these young people, who worked so hard and delivered their projects to such a high standard."

Councillor Andrew Burns, city education leader, said: "I am delighted to see what has been achieved at this school and to learn that the young people involved are all either staying on at school, are now in work, or are going on to further education."
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