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Last Updated: Monday, 20 February 2006, 13:59 GMT
Business offers schools support
The scheme aims to help youngsters reach their potential
The scheme aims to help youngsters reach their potential
A new scheme that enlists business to help struggling youngsters reach their full potential has been launched.

The "not in education, employment or training" (Neet) initiative will focus on the thousands young people each year destined for long-term unemployment.

A Neet advisory group will be headed by Weir Group chairman Sir Robert Smith.

The group could see business leaders such as Sir Tom Hunter have a greater involvement in Scotland's schools than ever before.

'Greatest challenge'

The scheme aims to use the time, experience and resources of those in the business community to provide support to head teachers, teachers and pupils across the country.

The new initiative is being set up after a year of discussions and will build upon the existing Enterprise in Education programme, which gives every pupil in the country the chance to experience enterprise at school.

It comes after concern that while results in the education system are improving, the bottom 10% to 20% of pupils are still not doing well enough.

Every child deserves the opportunity to shine
Sir Tom Hunter

Sir Robert Smith said: "Without exaggeration this is Scotland's greatest challenge - 20% of our young people are destined to become Neet and it has to stop.

"If we all combine our efforts we can take a giant step forward in preventing this flow and move our economy, both social and economic, forward by a similar giant step."

He said that each Neet youngster cost the taxpayer 100,000.

"This is a zero sum game, by stemming the flow you don't cost the nation money, you save it. But far more importantly you offer opportunity not despair to those destined to become Neet," he added.

More vocational courses in schools and with colleges
Additional careers advice based in schools
Joined up approach from all the volunteers and professionals involved
Long-term change through early intervention, pre-school education and support for those in care

Sir Tom said: "Every child deserves the opportunity to shine, every parent the chance to see that happen - no-one should be debilitated by socio-economic circumstance."

First Minister Jack McConnell said: "The group will bring a new energy and focus to tackling under-achievement among those who lose out on the opportunities available."

The scheme will also include input from head teachers, directors of education and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, as well as the health and social service sectors.

Mr McConnell said that since devolution, youth unemployment had fallen and the number of youngsters staying on at school had increased.

"But too many of our youngsters spend their last years of school disillusioned and demotivated," he added.

"Those youngsters are then regularly at the centre of discipline problems, post-school unemployment and crime."

Deputy First Minister Nicol Stephen is to announce the executive's action plan for those not in education, employment or training over the next few weeks.

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