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Bankers sum it up

Mark Grundy, head of Shireland Language College, Sandwell, West Midlands, is a tired man. "We've had a film crew from the BBC, and reporters from the local newpaper in school the past two days. It's been a pleasant nightmare."

Pleasant because Shireland has topped the performance tables nationally, although two-thirds of pupils have English as a second language. "We do very very well with a disadvantaged intake," says Mr Grundy.

Part of the good news is a substantial grant from Barclays New Futures towards improving maths. The school is receiving Pounds 7,000 across 20 months to spend on IT, developing new curriculum initiatives and the associated staff training. "We want to change pupils' and the community's perception of maths," says Mr Grundy, "and show them that it is interesting and is something they can do."

Part of the grant has gone on a giant interactive whiteboard on which are projected animated maths computer games. It proved invaluable recently at an after-school homework club where pupils used an electronic pen to make animated figures perform maths-related tasks. "When parents turned up to collect their children at 5pm we had to scrape them out of the room," says Mr Grundy.

Barclays' New Futures programme provides Pounds 1 million each year to support literacy, numeracy, mentoring and vocational projects. Now in its fifth year, it has given money to 700 schools.

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