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Further education in Croydon: Are the borough's young people getting the help they need?

SPECIAL REPORT: As the borough's two biggest colleges reel from damning Ofsted reports, Rachel Millard asks if our young people are getting the education they need to become the next generation of workers to ensure future prosperity... CARPENTRY student Ashley Allen is cheery about the future, with a qualification on the horizon in a subject on which he is keen.

The 16-year-old Croydon College student started a BTEC in the subject this year after getting a taste of it at home.

"They had the course and I used to work a bit with my stepfather and I enjoyed it, so I wanted to take it up," Ashley said.

"The teacher we had before was not great but the one we have now is good and actually gets the work done. I like doing the work and the college helps us get apprenticeships."

He is among the thousands of students who choose to study at the borough's colleges each year, taking advantage of huge course choices to get the skills that will set them on course for a job.

But the borough's two biggest colleges, Croydon and Coulsdon, have had their performance criticised by the education inspector in recent months, raising questions over how well those jobs' needs are served at a time of high youth unemployment.

Vidhi Mohan, the council's cabinet member for economic regeneration, said the borough's colleges on balance do well in helping students into work experience or jobs, but there was room for more.

"I think overall they do a good job for Croydon; Croydon College, for example, has an apprenticeship training scheme up in New Addington," he said.

"The colleges do a lot, although there is always scope to do more and to work with the local authority. For example, there is going to be a lot of construction with the regeneration work that will take place [around the town centre].

"It would be really good if the right kind of skills are provided to young people, and the training has to be done through the colleges. If retail is going to be a big employer, are the young people aligned with that? Do they have the skills that would be useful?"

The borough's other college scores highly in terms of what students do after and focuses on far fewer courses.

John Ruskin College dropped A levels from its curriculum in September 2009 and now offers relatively few courses, including BTECS in hair and beauty, and business, legal and financial services.

Explaining his decision, principal Tim Eyton-Jones said: "There were a couple of reasons really. What struck me was there was a real lack of high-quality, post-16 education in Croydon, and I mean really high-quality vocational education.

"So it was our market research of local providers which said to us there is this big gap in what we have got at the moment."

The college also has its own Careers Academy, one of many across the country to help students open doors with businesses.

Mr Eyton-Jones said: "It is about setting learner aspirations and pupil aspirations and getting them to realise that just because they have grown up and lived in Croydon, there is no reason they cannot look at big companies.

"Every student matters and we are being paid with public money and it is our duty to ensure that every student succeeds."

The college plans to introduce an A-levels Pathway in medical science and engineering from September this year, responding to vacancies for those jobs in the local area, the principal said.

Some such jobs might come from local engineering giant Mott Macdonald, which offers roughly four apprentice placements a year in Croydon.

A spokeswoman said: "They need to be driven and able to work using their own initiative. The scheme includes four days in an office, one day at college and work to be carried out in their own time.

"It is important at Mott MacDonald that people are passionate about the industry and comfortable communicating."

A spokesman for Croydon-based insurance company Allianz Global Assistance said it worked closely with local organisations "to help give students an insight into different job roles, the application process and employer's expectations to better equip them for the world of work".

Numbers of 16-18 year old students Coulsdon: 1207 John Ruskin: 568 Croydon: 2209 Percentage of KS5 students achieving three or more A-Levels at A*-E (including equivalences) 2012: Coulsdon: 75 per cent John Ruskin: 84 per cent Croydon: 82 per cent Average Point Score per student (including equivalences) 2012 Coulsdon: 599.3 John Ruskin: 579.5 Croydon: 580.0 Percentage of learners who in 2009/10 experienced employment/learning benefits after completing their course Coulsdon: Not enough data to award this score John Ruskin: 92 per cent Croydon: 86 per cent Where do Croydon students go after GCSE? 87 per cent go to some sort of further education 27 per cent to further education college 40 per cent to school sixth form 18 per cent to sixth form college

Further education in Croydon: Are the borough's young people getting the help they need?

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