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In Brief

Italy Schools could become afternoon social centres from next September, if the education minister gets his way. Classrooms are currently open from 8am to 1pm, but Giancarlo Lombardi wants to extend this into the afternoons and holidays and let pupils organise their own activities.

He said the scheme is in response to protests last autumn. Lessons came to halt as pupils organised sit-ins demanding time for extra-curricular social and cultural activities.

"Now there should be no need for the annual ritual of pupil protests to interrupt the normal timetable," he said. The idea has been welcomed, but the minister, who is a candidate for the centre-left Ulivo formation, has been accused of electioneering.

Mr Lombardi is unmoved. "It is an idea which comes from the distant past, from my experience in the boy scout movement," he said.

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