Although there have been some recent enhancements to the education system such as the Wood Commission introducing some vocational options with colleges, I firmly believe that there is a significant group of young people currently falling out of the education system at the age of 14. Approximately 6 years ago I started to investigate the cause of this problem and realised that this issue is not only prevalent in Scotland, but also in the UK and further afield.
With this in mind, I founded Newlands Junior College (NJC) with the purpose of taking 14 year olds from local secondary schools in Glasgow who were disengaged in the education system and at risk of dropping out altogether. These young people are talented individuals but they need to be engaged in a different way. I believe it’s our job to find out what their particular talent is and to encourage them to develop it.
At NJC we give the young people the support required in order to reach a positive destination, whether it be in the form of further education or as an apprenticeship. Our unique college provides academic education in the form of English, maths, science and IT, but also offers an option of 9 vocational courses of which the students will choose three. The courses are offered by the City of Glasgow College which allows the students to transition into a college course once they have completed S4. The classes at the college help to boost their self confidence, as they never saw themselves as being capable of studying at the level of higher education.
The third and vital pillar of NJC is life skills which promotes confidence and motivation through Outward Bound initiatives. This forms a key part of the NJC curriculum as we can work on the students’ self-worth to convince them that they can achieve their goals with the right attitude and application.
Of course It’s not all been smooth sailing with the students – there have been some challenging moments. However, the relaxed and supportive environment at the college allows the students to work through any problems they may have and the staff additionally give them one-to-one support when required.
Furthermore, a number of local businesses now sponsor the students meaning that crucially these young people will be guaranteed an apprenticeship upon completion at NJC.
It gave me an enormous sense of satisfaction when on June 22, all 20 students from the first NJC intake graduated with a combination of academic, vocational and personal development qualifications. The change we have seen in these young people is fantastic. They have engaged fully with education and have learnt valuable vocational skills that will stand them in good stead throughout their working careers.
Most importantly, they are all headed for an apprenticeship or will continue their studies in further education which is testament to the hard work of the staff at NJC. I have watched their development over the past two years and I’m incredibly proud of their application, hard work and achievements.