Case of the unhappy nursery nursing drop-out

January 30, 1998

Welfare to what? Phil Baty on what the government's New Deal has to offer to colleges and students.

JANE is the first student to enrol at Gateshead College under the New Deal education pathway. She does not want to be identified as she is "estranged" from her mother and does not want to be found.

At 19, she lives alone in a council flat in Gateshead town centre while most of her friends are away at university or full-time at college. After leaving school at 16 with a handful of GCSEs, she enrolled on a nursery nursing course.

After a restless year at North Tyneside College, she dropped out and joined a similar course at neighbouring Newcastle College. Facing difficulties at home, she dropped out of that course too. "I just felt that no one really cared," she says. "I wasn't sure where the course was leading." But she began again on a BTEC in nursery nursing, this time at South Tyneside College.

A worsening relationship with her mother forced her to leave home, and she had to give up the course to support herself. She started claiming Job Seekers' Allowance. The rule that limits to 16 hours the length of time a claimant can study destroyed her hopes for the BTEC, so she dropped out again. By then, she was not sure she wanted to be a nursery nurse anyway.

Jane has spent the past six-and-a-half months on the dole, getting Pounds 38.90 a week. "It has been terrible," she says. When she heard about the New Deal she went straight to the job centre. Last week she enrolled at Gateshead College on a full-time, word processing and information technology NVQ level 2. She now hopes to get clerical work.

"The job centre got straight back to me," she says. "My adviser said I could study up to 30 hours a week instead of 16. This is ideal for me. I can get qualified a lot faster and get myself off the unemployment list. It is perfect."

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