Richard: once, twice, three times a leaver

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Richard Paddy, left, is 20 in September and lives with his mother, who is a care assistant, and his stepfather, a miner. He has just left Hallcross School for the third time, and wants to be a policeman.

I THINK a lot of Donny kids come out of education thinking they'll walk into a job, and YTS is a right rude awakening. I first left in year 11 (the fifth form), and got a YTS in a menswear shop. In six weeks I'd done everything there was to do. I was more or less managing the place, but getting a sixth of the wage of the woman who was managing the women's side.

So I jacked it in, and the school took me back and I did some more GCSEs. I left again after that, thinking I'd finally put school behind me. I did YTS again for another firm, but it wasn't much better. The training never happened and there didn't seem to be any prospects.

Me brother, who's three years older than me, said his biggest mistake was not finishing his education properly - he's picked it up at night-school. He just told me to go back to school again. So I did, and I've just done two A- levels. You don't need A-levels to be a policeman, but I thought they'd be useful if that went wrong.

I thought I were ready for life when I first left, but you're very ignorant about everything. Sixteen is definitely too young to leave school. I admit a lot of kids go back to the sixth form just to waste a couple of years, put off the decisions in life. They don't know it as a good thing at the time, but they soon realise it is.

There are three basic groups of kids at school in Donny: those who don't give a damn about anything (they're the ones I'll be locking up of a Saturday night); the second group just takes whatever comes, goes around in blinkers and settles down to drift far too early in life; and the third group puts everything into it. The three rarely mix.

I suppose I was in the middle band until me brother sorted me out and I took a look at myself. I thought, if it's coming from him it must be true. You don't really believe parents or teachers, do you? Luckily when I'd made the choice I had encouragement from my parents. I think 16 is a very difficult age. If you don't get the right encouragement then, you'll just drift for the rest of your life.

(Photograph omitted)