Bright future for 'winter leavers'

A new programme targeting pupils with the greatest risk of leaving school without a positive post-school destination has transformed the life-chances of everyone who took part

Winter Leavers 2020

The 'winter leavers' pathways programme' was launched in May offering young people the opportunity to engage in a full-time curriculum linked to employment.

Winter leavers can often feel disadvantaged by having to stay at school until they reach 16 - half way through the academic year at the end of December.

The group were previously three times more likely to leave school without a positive destination, such as further education, training, apprenticeships or employment than their summer-leaving peers.

Councillor Frank McNally, Convener of Education and Families, explained: "We identified 111 statutory winter leavers from each of our 23 secondary schools and 90 of them joined the programme between August and December last year.

"Of the 90 pupils, 33 are now in employment or an apprenticeship, 19 are in further education, 25 in training which will lead to employment, three are currently on an activity agreement* and eight are continuing to receive support until they are work-ready and a relevant opportunity arises."

Three programme co-ordinators worked with teachers, pupils and parents to shape the curriculum appropriate to the needs of each young person.

They worked closely with Routes to Work, New College Lanarkshire and local employers to create new opportunities for each of the winter leavers, who were asked about their aspirations.

Work placements were then identified within key growth sectors such as: construction, health & social care and early education & childcare.

Local employers such as CMS Window Systems in Castlecary, the Atrium Business Centre in Coatbridge and NL Industries in Wishaw were crucial in helping to deliver the programme. And each young person was supported during their placement with an employability mentor providing one-to-one help and guidance along with the offer of a positive post-school pathway once they leave secondary education.

One pupil said: "I really don't know what I would have done without the Winter Leavers' Programme - it's given me the confidence to get my work experience in the nursery. Thank you so much."

Councillor McNally added: "We're determined that all our young people leave school and go on to benefit from a positive and sustained destination.

"The results have been incredibly successful - far more so than we'd hoped for. Some of the young people hadn't attended school in the previous year but had full attendance on the programme."

The programme is part the council's drive to raise attainment and life chances for all young people and follows a comprehensive employability review which is integral to the overall strategy We Aspire: an ambition for North Lanarkshire Council.

At the recent Education and Families Committee the programme was praised and it was agreed that it would expand and continue to support other cohorts of young people.

Everyone taking part in the Winter Leavers' programme will receive a six-month follow up with support from the learner co-ordinators and ongoing support from Routes to Work and Skills Development Scotland.


* 'Activity Agreements' help school leavers gain skills and confidence. They're plans to help young people prepare for employment, training, education and/or volunteering.

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