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Bright sparks get into the groove

Fun and games of an educational kind were seen at last week's conference of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust in Birmingham. A display by software providers RM showing how dance-mat computer games could be used to teach languages lured headteachers willing to groove in public. On the stand the organisers said that most of the school leaders had seemed embarrassed at first, but that after several hours of free drinks it had been difficult to persuade some to leave. And the educational aspect of the exercise? They learned Spanish words for colours.

One school working creatively to join the specialist schools family is Mortimer Wilson comprehensive in Alfreton, Derbyshire. Its evening event last week, to mark the launch of its bid for specialist performing arts status, was explosive from the popping corks at the Buck's Fizz reception to a 17-minute firework display. Wendy Sharp, head of the 750-pupil school since January, said it was "a visual symbol of our determination to be a landmark" in the former mining area But, inquired the Diary, surely such a display would cost almost as much as the pound;50,000 sponsorship required for a successful bid? Not at all, she replied. Both the PTA chairman and the site manager (an ex-army munitions expert) were licensed to run such things; the school had to pay only for raw materials. Catering was provided by a former student. The cost would be covered by the sale of 120 tickets at pound;16.50 each (most bought by local business people). And the sponsorship cheques were starting to come in...

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