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Chocolate improves appetite for lessons

FOR a generation of pupils used to instant gratification, the acquisition of knowledge is often insufficient justification for long days in the classroom. They want rewards, and they want them now.

And staff at Worsley Mesnes primary, in Wigan, are willing to oblige if it ensures full classes. To improve attendance, they are offfering prizes, including chocolates and toys, in return for turning up for lessons.

All pupils are automatically entered into a half-termly prize raffle. But those who are absent without an explanatory note from parents are removed from the draw. The initiative was conceived by Kim Singleton, a learning mentor at the school.

She said: "It was hard to get parents to bring notes in, because they did not think they were relevant. But very few don't bring them in now."

Ms Singleton said coating lessons in free chocolate has made them significantly more palatable for her pupils. Combined with other initiatives, including a prize for the class with the best attendance record, the raffle has contributed to a significant fall in the school's authorised absence rates. Absence rates now stand at 5.6 per cent, down from 6.2 per cent last year. As a result, the school has just hit its target of increasing attendance to 94.5 per cent this year.

But Brenda Szwandt, headteacher, denies she is bribing pupils. She said:

"We try to give lots of rewards and praise at school. We believe in that kind of approach to managing behaviour. This is just an extension of that."

Since the raffle was introduced, Matthew Rigby, 11, has always remembered to remind his parents of their note-writing responsibilities.

The possibility of winning a prize, he said, helped him to endure his key stage 2 tests this year.

"School is a lot more fun now we have the raffle," he said. "Each time the prizes get better and better, so it encourages people to come to school."

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