Services defended after student dropout claims

Emma Barton, Wigan Council's assistant director for economic development and skills
Emma Barton, Wigan Council's assistant director for economic development and skills

EDUCATION chiefs have hit back after it was claimed students drop out of A-levels because they do not know about more suitable vocational options.

The borough’s leading sixth form college and Wigan Council both spoke out following the comments made by Manchester-based training organisation The Skills Company.

The service claimed many students in Greater Manchester are channelled into doing academic studies and will end up dropping out because there is a better alternative to A-levels for them.

The Skills Company also claimed careers departments in schools do not provide teenagers with enough information to make informed choices about opting for apprenticeships or vocational training.

However, these claims have now been swiftly dismissed, with town hall education chiefs and Winstanley College saying the borough’s drop-out rates were not as high as The Skills Company had hinted and a great deal of work is carried out in Wigan to ensure young people access the right studies.

The authorities also defended the level of support offered to those who do decide to leave whichever courses they are enrolled on and end up Not in Education, Employment or Training (Neet).

Emma Barton, assistant director for economic development and skills at Wigan Council said: “One of our priorities is to make sure there are opportunities for young people to access education, training and employment opportunities and we have a number of services to help those in need.

“The Gateway service provides early help and support to young people up to the age of 19, and are able to provide information, advice and support to Neets.

“The council also works closely with a range of local providers as part of our Wigan Works programme to ensure that there is good-quality provision available locally that equip young people to compete for jobs in our growth sectors.

“We promote a range of opportunities available to school leavers in the borough, including traineeships and apprenticeships. Apprenticeships add real value to the local economy and mean individuals gain valuable work experience and qualifications while contributing to the economy.

“Traineeships provide essential work preparation training and work experience needed to get an apprenticeship or another job.”

Winstanley College principal Louise Tipping said: “We are very proud of our students’ success and well over 97 per cent of our students complete a full two years with us.

“We recognise the importance of higher-level apprenticeships and Winstanley students who have chosen this route have gone on to work in prestigious businesses such as Barclays, KPMG and Rolls Royce.”

The response was prompted by comments made by The Skills Company’s managing director Jayne Worthington. The organisation is part of the not-for-profit Manchester Growth Company.

Ms Worthington added: “The range of opportunities available through apprenticeships is now wider than ever, and many apprentices go on to higher education .

“For people who aren’t sure what direction to take, there are also traineeships where young people can gain work experience and improve their employability skills.”