Tony Tysome reports from the Association of Colleges conference, Birmingham
A national survey has confirmed what lecturers and parents have always suspected - most teenagers value their social life and hobbies more than college or school work.
Given a choice between finishing coursework or doing something more sociable, such as chatting to friends on their mobile phones, two-thirds are more likely to plump for the latter according to a survey of nearly 2,700 15-to-19-year-olds - mostly A and AS-level students - conducted by the charity Exam Aid for the Association of Colleges.
College heads say they want the proposed baccalaureate system for 14-to-19-year-olds, under consideration by former schools chief inspector Mike Tomlinson, to encompass outside interests and give students credit for them.
A report on the findings says the survey results may explain teenagers'
lack of faith in their courses, with 57 per cent unsure whether their studies will help them achieve their future goals.
The report says: "It is clear that problems of conflicting priorities are likely for many students and the downgrading or abandoning of some subjects could be an inevitable consequence."
Almost half of students responding to the survey say they have lost confidence since their courses started. Eight out of ten found coursework harder than expected and nearly half said they encountered more written work than they anticipated.
The report suggests a lack of confidence arising from the work being beyond their expectations, may be due to conflicting demands on their time and priorities.
Judith Norrington, the AoC's director of curriculum and quality, said:
"Young people are interested in developing their whole lives, of which learning in colleges and schools is only part.
"In our work with Mike Tomlinson for 14-19 year-olds we have stressed the need for students to have wide opportunities, such as sport, volunteering and work experience as part of their entitlement and recognised as part of their achievement."