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Children lift Dome gloom

The much-maligned millennium experience has proved a winner this half-term. Steve Hook reports

THOUSANDS of children descended on the Millennium Dome this week on half-term school trips - proof, organisers have said, of its success as an educational attraction.

On the first day of the half-term, 4,978 children arrived on pre-paid trips from around the country. Their presence contributed to a 25,000-ticket sell out that left many other visitors unable to get in.

Visitors included all 560 Year 6 pupils from Hull's education action zone, in Bransholme, who travelled to London on a chartered train.

The train was nicknamed The Bransholme amp; District Express and the 10 carriages were sponsored by the zone's private-sector partners.

Their teachers said they were delighted with what the Dome had to offer and said that it had fulfilled John Prescott's promise of a great day out.

When the Deputy Prime Minister, their MP, met the children at the Dome, on Monday, he said: "Some people claim that the Dome is unpopular but everyone who comes here loves it.

"It's exciting and kids enoy it, as these ones from Hull will."

The half-term rush confirms the Dome's popularity with children and teachers, according to Maggie Semple, director of its Learning Experience.

She said: "More than 600,000 children have booked to come to the dome on pound;8 paid-for tickets on top of the one million who will come on the free visits. Schools are not just bringing a class of 30 children.They are turning up with up to 1,000 - the whole school.

The free tickets are awarded to schools by a ballot. Currently, schools are told which zones they should visit but from March 1 all restrictions will be lifted.

Many visitors who failed to get in claimed they were led to believe there would be no difficulty getting tickets.

Those who didn't make it included Matthew Gough, who travelled from Manchester with his mother Lynn as a birthday treat.

Michael Buczynskyj, who had come down from South Shields, Tyne and Wear, said:

"It's really disappointing and I'm not sure when I can come back again.

"My wife is a teacher and can only come during school holidays."

Leader, 16

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