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The Corporation

Posted: 09/12/08

Ashfield MP visits pioneering College project

Ashfield MP Geoff Hoon recently visited a special college project that is transforming the lives of young people across the area by giving them a second chance at education.

Mr Hoon dropped into West Nottinghamshire College's Ashfield Project on Friday 12 December to check on its progress and speak to students and staff.

Now in its second year, the pioneering project – based at the College's Ashfield Campus in Huthwaite Road, Sutton-in-Ashfield – was set up to re-engage and support young people who are, or are at risk of becoming, NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training).

It caters for young people who did not achieve at school due to low attendance or other problems including bullying, undiagnosed dyslexia or having caring responsibilities.

The project offers a range of Entry to Employment and vocational courses – from Business Administration, Hair and Beauty, Fashion and Design, to Interactive Media and Motorcycle Maintenance – to give students a 'hands on' approach to learning; with smaller class sizes to provide more personalised support.

The curriculum is innovative, vocationally-relevant and underpinned by a strong philosophy of practical learning combined with citizenship, celebration of success and a culture of mutual respect.

The project provides a free bus service to help students get to College and has a later start time of 9.30am for those who have other domestic responsibilities including family or parenting commitments.

Students are referred to the project by the Connexions. In its first year, 63 young people enrolled and 49 successfully completed their programme. Of these, 90% have progressed on to the next qualification level, while three have entered employment – exceeding targets for success and progression rates within the first year.

This year, 115 students enrolled on to the project.

Sandra Cowley, Ashfield Project Manager, said: "We are immensely proud of the success of the Ashfield Project so far. It really has been life-changing for so many young people and the good work will continue. Our students really enjoyed sharing their stories with Mr Hoon who is always keen to keep up with the developments at West Nottinghamshire College."

Mr Hoon toured the building and spoke to students within the various curriculum areas about how the project has changed their lives and outlook on educational choices. He said: "The success of this centre is obvious after speaking to many of the students. It's a very important facility that is helping those who have previously slipped through the educational net. I have enjoyed seeing just how industry realistic their vocational courses are as this will help them through the difficult transition from education to working lives."

Principal Asha Khemka added: "These young people are continually raising their self esteem, self belief and self confidence on these adapted programmes. It's really gratifying to see these people blossoming and I have so much confidence in them to turn their lives around and take full advantage of further education opportunities."