Appeal for a Royal yacht's worth success

Allen Edwards reports on a campaign seeking motivation money to light up schools after hours. Campaigners seeking to improve after-school facilities have called for between Pounds 60 million and Pounds 80m a year to support the expansion of extra-curricular work.

The appeal by the charity Education Extra follows research carried out by London University's Institute of Education which found that extra-curricular activities could help to motivate schoolchildren and improve their exam prospects.

Dr Kay Andrews, the charity's director, said the money was needed to pay a teacher in every primary and secondary school to organise and develop after-school programmes.

She said: "We are asking for the same amount of money as the cost of a Royal yacht. There is enormous scope in after-school activities. If we could spread the enthusiasm generated by this, we could transform schools."

Kate Myers, the London Institute's associated director of school effectiveness, said research carried out jointly with Professor Michael Barber, an adviser to Labour's front-bench education team, showed that 85 per cent of London schools were providing more activities than 10 years ago.

London schools were offering more than 20 activities a night, including car maintenance, cookery, study support and steel bands.

She said 79 per cent of secondaries and 60 per cent of primaries wanted to extend the activities they provided. But the same percentage of secondaries and 70 per cent of primaries said they suffered funding problems.

Dr Myers said: "Extra-curricular activities give students the chance to work in a different atmosphere, getting involved because they want to work rather than because they have to."

Professor Barber said: "Our results indicate that academic performance and higher levels of participation in extra-curricular provision go together.

"There is a growing trend on the left and right to recognise that funding learning out of school is important. I think this campaign for more resources will bear fruit in the long term."

Labour is planning to use money raised by the National Lottery to develop a series of homework centres and to improve other after-school activities. Under the scheme, money would be available through the Millennium Fund from 2000, but no figure has yet been put on it.

The Government has already set up 12 pilot homework centres in schools across the country.

A spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats says the party believes a fund should be set up to improve extra-curricular and community activities in schools. No sum has been finalised.

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