Felicity Fletcher-Campbell, Mairi Ann Cullen, Elizabeth Bowen, Jayne Osgood, Sara Kelleher
01 October 2000
Disaffection, lack of interest, truancy and under-achievement are all too common a reaction to the curriculum in years 10 and 11. But many schools across England and Wales have chosen to offer at least some of their students something a little different during their last year or two of compulsory education. For example, as well as attending school for part of the time, some students go to further education college, gain experience on a long-term work placement, learn new skills with a training organisation or get involved in personal-development activities run by youth workers.
In the summer term of 1998, NFER carried out a survey of schools in a sample of LEAs, asking them what alternative curriculum programmes they used for some students at key stage 4. Just under a quarter of the schools contacted told us about the schemes they had in place. During autumn term 1998, representatives from 75 of the organisations working with schools were also interviewed about their perspectives on these programmes. These partner organisations included LEAs, LEA support services, youth work, community colleges, other schools, employers, further education colleges, training and enterprise councils, training organisations, and special projects run in particular geographic areas.
The main aims of the research, part of the Local Government Association's Educational Research Programme, were to find out what sorts of alternative programmes schools used, what the students did on these schemes, and whether the programmes were effective in making a positive difference. The majority view of those involved in the research was that, when set up properly, such programmes could make the vital difference between success and failure, between social inclusion and social exclusion for the students involved. The programmes could also have positive effects on families, schools, the organisations participating and, as a result, on local communities.
The report highlights the particular features that made programmes work well for the students and their families/carers, and successful for the schools and the partner organisations involved.