AFTER taking advantage of 1,428 free driving lessons, only 27 out of 102 students at the Southern Regional College in Lurgan passed both their practical and theory driving tests.
A local councillor has said that in light of the statistic, serious questions need to be asked regarding Neighbourhood Renewal’s funding of the ‘Steering 2 Success’ programme given the ‘poor’ pass rate.
According to the SRC, the primary goal of the programme is for the participants to achieve educational qualifications with the free driving lessons being used as an incentive to encourage young people to sign up.
2,521 free driving lessons were delivered to 219 participants from the Craigavon region by the six driving schools appointed by SRC. At the Lurgan campus 102 students got roughly 14 lessons each and 27 passed their driving test while 43 passed their theory test.
UUP Councillor Colin McCusker said he was impressed by the work of the Neighbourhood Renewal Partnership, but wasn’t so heartened by the pass rate for the young drivers.
He said: “When I queried what I regard as a poor pass rate, I was informed that a number of the students who had availed of the free lessons, didn’t bother to actually take the driving test.
“I am sure people right across the Lurgan area, in particular those who are not living in designated NR areas will be bewildered at this response, as I find it incredible that someone who is provided with 14 fully funded driving lessons is not obligated to take the actual test. There was no penalty outlined should the students not actually take the test.”
Mr McCusker concluded: “There are serious questions to be asked about how this aspect of the NR was managed, not least how were the driving schools chosen to take part in the project, and I would urge all those responsible to ensure this never happens again.”
The Steering to Success project was designed to engage with participants who reside in the Neighbourhood Renewal areas of Lurgan, Brownlow and Portadown. The project was modelled on a similar project that the college previously ran with funding from Craigavon Borough Council through its Local Community Fund.
John Quinn, director of Workforce Development and External Relations at SRC, said the ‘Steering 2 Success’ programme achieved its primary goal with 170 of the 219 participants achieving a Level 2 Award Employability Award and a further 30 participants enrolling on another course and achieved the ILM Level 2 Award;
He said: “In total 200 people achieved qualifications, our target was 150. The secondary aim of the programme, which was also achieved, was to get 150 people involved in driving and improve their employment opportunities. As a result of the free driving lessons 96 participants passed driving theory tests and 60 participants achieved full driving licences.
“Research shows that on average an individual requires 23 driving lessons prior to passing the practical driving test. ‘Steering 2 Success’ offered only 14 free driving lessons. The expectation was that people would continue to fund their own driving lessons to help them get their licences.
“As part of the college’s long term commitment to social inclusion, we will be following up on participants in six months’ time to ascertain whether or not they continued to take lessons and to determine how the programme benefited them beyond the achievement of qualifications.”
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