A day to help you mind the gap

They have become a rite of passage for teenagers determined to gain life skills and indelible memories. But for parents, gap years can be a nightmare.

By STEVE DOWNES Education correspondent

They have become a rite of passage for teenagers determined to gain life skills and indelible memories.

But for parents, gap years can be a nightmare.

After 18-plus years with little Johnny or Jenny attached by the apron strings, cutting them free to jet off to a jungle and build huts in a hostile environment is enough to spark acute anxiety at home.

But next week, help is at hand at what is believed to be Norfolk's first gap year fair.

The Expanding Horizons event, at Thorpe St Andrew School, near Norwich, on May 3, will see gap year experts on hand to offer advice to young people - and to mop the brows of concerned parents.

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Dozens of companies will set up stalls at the school from 6pm to 8pm.

Ben Ash, senior sixth form tutor at the school, said: “Gap years used to be the preserve of good middle-class young people who were well funded. But more and more people are taking gap years, and more help is needed.

“We are just trying to open a few eyes and give people some ideas. Most schools just get loads of information from private companies organising gap events, but leaflets only take you so far.

“This will give people a forum to ask questions and the range of exhibitors will give them a much better idea of what's on offer.”

He added: “We want parents to come as well. They've probably got more questions than their children. In some cases they will be funding it, and in all cases they will be worried.”

Mr Ash said growing numbers of young people were eschewing the “modern version of a tour” and doing voluntary work in all corners of the world.

He said: “These experiences are very good ways to gain life experience and to boost the quality of a CV.”

The fair, which is free of charge and includes a talk about taking a gap year, is open to students from any schools and colleges, parents and even adults who are looking into taking a late gap year.

t For further information about the fair and exhibitors, and about Futurewise, which is organising the event, visit www.myfuturewise.org.uk.