Poor students will be paid to take gap year

Hundreds of students from poor backgrounds will be offered the opportunity to take a "gap year" funded by the Government, Gordon Brown, announced yesterday.

The Chancellor said students would be able to take a year out between school and university and would be paid to perform community work such as caring for the disabled and teaching young people to read.

The Government wants to make the "year out" available to students who cannot afford to do so. It has already launched a pilot scheme which caters for 60 students, and is planning to plough millions into the scheme across England and Scotland.

The plan is based on the successful AmeriCorps project which has been operating in the US since 1993 and involves about 50,000 people every year.

Mr Brown made the announcement in a speech to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

The plan met with scepticism from student leaders. The National Union of Students said most potential volunteers would be put off by the prospect of tuition fees which would be higher by the time they got to university, if they took a year off.

Mr Brown cited a recent poll suggesting 59 per cent of people aged 15 to 24 wanted to know how to get more involved in their communities.

He urged a "call to service" for youngsters so that it was the norm to help their communities.

The "multimillion-pound" gap year scheme will be unveiled in this summer's Comprehensive Spending Review.

Mr Brown's speech was welcomed by the UK's largest volunteering and training charity, CSV (Community Service Volunteers).

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