THE number of young litter louts has been slashed by half thanks to an innovative council-run course.
Youngsters throwing away litter during lunch breaks and after school was becoming such a concern that Hartlepool Borough Council launched a new litter awareness course.
Litter louts, aged between 10 and 17, are either hit with a £75 fixed penalty notice or ordered to take the 90-minute interactive course.
Since the programme was launched in September 2010, dozens of youngsters have been on the course.
Figures show the number of secondary school pupils caught offending this academic year compared to last year has been slashed from 68 to 31.
One school alone has seen a reduction from 40 to 16 offenders over the past two years.
In 2010-11 nine courses were held at St Hild’s Church of England VA School, Dyke House Sports and Technology College, Manor College of Technology, High Tunstall College of Science and English Martyrs School and Sixth Form College.
There were 105 youngsters caught littering and 87 attended the course.
The others either gave false details, paid a fine or were referred to the Youth Offending Team.
The course, which involves slide-show presentations, is aimed at those in full-time education and has been such a success that the course is now available for other local authorities to buy.
Denise Ogden, assistant director (neighbourhood services), said in a report to the council: “Hartlepool Borough Council has tried a vast range of approaches from conventional education programmes to issuing warning notices to stop juvenile littering.
“The impact of these programmes has been limited and the issue of litter, particularly along ‘school routes’ and in nearby shopping precincts was becoming a significant problem.
“The litter awareness course is an innovative idea and aims to offer the choice to first time, ‘enviro-crime’ offenders to attend an educational session about the consequences of littering as an alternative to paying a Fixed Penalty Notice.”
Mrs Ogden said the programme had been “extremely well received”.
The pack contains everything needed for other councils to run a similar course including a handbook and a memory stick with a power point litter awareness course.
So far 30 other local authorities from across the country have been in touch and 10 have already brought a pack.
Feedback from the schools have also been positive.
The council transport and neighbourhoods portfolio meeting heard a statement from Manor College of Technology, which said: “The course is important and backs the college as we have the same beliefs.
“It is no problem at all organising a night or two and we would support future courses.”
A statement from High Tunstall College of Science said: “We have noticed a drop in the number of complaints we receive from local residents which again is a good indicator.”
The option of attending the course as an alternative to the fine will only be offered once every three years.
The council can legally issue fines to juveniles aged over 10.