Freedom to learn
Leanne Smythe freely admits that going to school just wasnt for her and if it wasnt for a groundbreaking project that allows school-age children to study vocational subjects, her education could have fallen by the wayside.
Leanne, 15, of Tottenham, currently spends four days a week at The College of North East London, and successfully mixes studying for her GCSEs with a professional hairdressing qualification.
And she plainly loves it. So much so that she was more than happy to tell the nation on BBC and Channel 4 news programmes broadcast last week.
The news crews arrived at CONEL on the day when David Miliband MP, the Minister of State for School Standards, was delivering his speech on promoting vocational studies to 14-19 year olds who could drop out of mainstream education.
Leanne, a Gladesmore pupil, is one of several local school children who is taking advantage of Increased Flexibility a nationwide programme that offers funding to support pupils who can opt to spend between one day a week to five days at certain Further Education colleges rather than in school.
A range of vocational courses are on offer and learners can also study core subjects like English, Maths, IT, Communication plus GCSEs, which they can do either at college or school.
And for Leanne, who's at CONEL four days a week, it's working. If I was still at school, I would be bunking off every day because I didnt like it at all.
But I actually do come to college and I like it! Its really different. I really enjoy my time here and Im committed. There are students on my course ranging from my age to 40 and were all treated the same with respect.
It's made a real difference to my life. I know that the government is paying money so we can do this and if youre going to mess around, then youre wasting all that money.
So how did it feel to be on television? It was nice to have fame for a day! I was a bit nervous but Im good at talking so I didnt show it.
Leanne, who is currently studying Level 1 in NVQ Hairdressing, says she plans to finish the three year course at CONEL.
"By the time I'm 18, I'll be a qualified hairdresser. I feel like I'm one step ahead of the game instead of a few steps behind."
- Last Updated: 28 January 2003