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Boy's betting site may net a million

IT'S hard to mention the Internet and child prodigies in one breath without shuddering. But I have a soft spot for eight-year-old Joseph Allen who is planning to float his company, Betachance.com, on the stock market.

Two years ago young Joseph, of Trowbridge, Wiltshire, dreamed up the idea of an on-line betting service after discussing a flutter on the Grand National with his uncle, Godfrey Allen, a professional tipster.

Uncle Godfrey is now a full-time director in Joseph's firm, which has relocated to Mauritius with an offshore staff of 14. Should the flotation succeed, Joseph's shareholding will be worth over pound;1 million - rather more than the pound;1-a-week pocket money he currently enjoys.

But don't expect him to become spoilt. When he grows up Joseph says he would rather be a teacher than a city slicker.

One of the City's former favourites, now far from slick, is Marks and Spencer. As if being piloried for its frumpy fashion were not enough, it has now been exposed for refusing to accept vouchers for school uniforms. The vouchers for hard-up parents are part of the Government's working families tax credit scheme.

The chain, which had claimed the vouchers were too much hassle to process, has now been forced to change its policy. But the U-turn has come too late for many parents who have already taken their trade, and their vouchers - elsewhere.

Elsewhere is precisely where EastEnders fans will be when a new course on TV soaps begins at Sunderland University this autumn. The course is scheduled for 6.30pm to 8.30pm on Thursdays, clashing not only with EastEnders but Emmerdale too. No one has enrolled so far.

But course co-ordinator Vicky Haswell hopes soap fans will set their videos and attend. "I'm sure people will realise it will be even more fun than watching the telly," she said.

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