Torfaen Learning Zone seen from St Davids Road in Cwmbran.
Torfaen Learning Zone seen from St Davids Road in Cwmbran Credit: Google Street View

Story by Twm Owen, local democracy reporter

TEENAGERS at risk of leaving school with no qualifications could be able to attend college instead. 

Last summer two schools in Torfaen saw a handful of 15 and 16-year-olds leave at the end of year 11 without a single qualification. 

The borough council has now agreed to purchase places at Coleg Gwent’s Torfaen Learning Zone, in Cwmbran, so pupils who could be at risk of being ‘Not in Employment, Education or Training’, known as NEETS, can attend college. 

Andrew Powles, Torfaen’s director of education, told its education scrutiny committee the council has purchased the places which schools can then use for year 11 pupils. 

He said that recognised school “isn’t the best place” for some pupils and told councillors: “That’s something brand new this week and an example of what we are trying to do to address (pupils leaving with no qualifications).” 

Welsh Government figures show that Croesyceiliog School and Abersychan were the only two of Torfaen’s six comprehensives where any pupils left without achieving a single qualification. 

At Croesyceiliog, where 17.6 per cent of pupils are entitled to a free school meal, 0.4 per cent of pupils failed to gain a qualification while at Abersychan, where the free school meal rate is 30.6 per cent, figures show 1.7 per cent of pupils left empty handed. 

A report to the committee stated the figure for both schools is around four in 1,000 pupils not achieving a qualification, but at the one school that is 17 in 1,000. 

Those figures were also worse than in similar schools, based on factors such as the proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals and who live in the most deprived areas, they are compared with across Wales. Croesyceiliog’s figure was 0.3 higher than its “family of schools” while Abersychan’s was 1.4 per cent greater. 

Ed Price, from the Education Achievement Service that works with Gwent’s schools and councils, said it will work with schools to address the isssue including that pupils are able to take the most appropriate qualifications. 

He said: “We know the life chances for individual learners are far higher when they do achieve some qualifications. 

“The numbers are very small when you look at it per one thousand but those learners still matter and we want to work with schools to ensure they have support.” 

Committee chair Councillor Rose Seabourne said she understood the council chief executive is also discussing a scheme with businesses to support learners at risk of leaving school without qualifications.