Rescue plans for `no hope' teenagers

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RESCUE PLANS for a lost generation of 160,000 teenagers who have dropped out of education, training and employment will be announced by the Government today.

A report from the Social Exclusion Unit will also show that a further 160,000 - about one in 11 - are in dead-end jobs without hope of further training.

Aged 16 to 18, the subjects of the project are much more likely than their better- educated peers to be homeless, ill or depressed, the report suggests. The males are more likely to be involved in or to become involved in crime, and about half the girls are either mothers or caring for relatives. All are more likely to face long-term unemployment than those who continue in some form of education or training.

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, aims to keep all young people in education or training until they are 18. Ministers have already set targets to bring 85 per cent of 19-year- olds up to a minimum standard of education by 2002.

The report recognises that some 16-year-olds will continue to take jobs but it will emphasise that legislation introduced by the Government gives young people the right to have time off to study while they are working.

The Social Exclusion Unit was asked by the Prime Minister to assess how many young people dropped out of education and employment, to analyse why and to produce proposals to reduce the numbers.

The Department for Education is already running pilot projects to persuade disaffected teenagers to gain qualifications. In a Tyneside project young people who were formerly homeless or unemployed are advising their peers on jobs, education and drug and alcohol abuse.

A Bill to be introduced into Parliament this autumn will set up a body to run education and training for people aged 16 to 19 and ensure that all pupils have access to careers advisers in an attempt to stop them dropping out of school.

Meanwhile, primary school pupils are to be invited to attend booster classes in literacy and numeracy after school, during the holidays or at weekends. Estelle Morris, minister for School Standards, announced pounds 70m for the classes, which will start in September.

Ministers have promised that 80 per cent of 11-year-olds will have reached the expected standards in English by 2002 and 75 per cent will have done so in maths.

Literacy booster classes at Easter were "phenomenally popular" with teachers and parents, according to government sources. Ministers have introduced daily literacy and numeracy hours into primary schools but they are particularly concerned about standards among older pupils who have benefited from these initiatives for only a short time.

Ms Morris was speaking at a conference in London to review the Government's literacy and numeracy strategies.

t Children in some schools are receiving only an hour's education on the dangers of alcohol in their entire school careers, says a survey published today. Almost half the schools that responded to questions from the Portman Group, which promotes sensible drinking, said their pupils received between one and five hours of alcohol education.