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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 July 2003, 12:22 GMT 13:22 UK
'Second chance' goes mainstream
By Gary Eason
BBC News Online education staff

Barbara Brodigan
Barbara Brodigan: Successful philosophy
The announcement of the government's new skills strategy brought a wry smile to the lips of Barbara Brodigan, head of the Second Chance School in Leeds.

"There was this chap on the radio going on about giving people a second chance and he didn't mention us by name but I thought, we've been doing that for five years," she said.

"It's a big vote of confidence in what we have been doing."

What they have been doing is giving a rare second chance at an education to people who left the system first time around without any qualifications. Many have a history of family and personal problems.

The school was one of nine opened originally around Europe in 1998. There are now 28 in the European association and more are planned.

Funding was for two years initially. The idea behind the project was that governments would then take over - but despite praise from ministers this did not happen in the UK.

The school, in the rundown Seacroft area of east Leeds, kept going through last year thanks to a grant from the European Social Fund.


It now has a contract from the Learning and Skills Council, which funds post-16 education outside universities.

Not only that but it is expanding, opening satellite schools around Leeds and, through the government's "entry to employment" scheme, will be taking younger students.

One of its new centres, working with the Prince's Trust, will be at Leeds United's football ground.

It will go from having 50 students to as many as 300.

Second Chance works by treating people as adults and giving them close support to gain qualifications and move from benefit dependency into employment.

The government's skills white paper will give adults who take up full-time GCSE courses free tuition and weekly grants of 30.

This follows criticism that the system is failing thousands of adults who wish to return to full-time study but cannot afford it.

"I would like to think we have had an influence on the government's strategy," said Barbara Brodigan.

"It could just be coincidental - but the philosophy is exactly the same."

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