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The cream of the summer crop

The priority during the vacation is to relax, and there are plenty of guides over the next six pages to doing precisely that. Yet we also cover summer courses and ideas to improve students and teachers alike, as George Cole and our team of writers offer a definitive guide. Illustrations Nancy Tolford.

he long summer break is on its way, but there will still be many opportunities for pupils, parents and teachers to use information and communications technology (ICT) for learning, teaching - and fun. The Department for Education and Employment's (DFEE) summer school programme is designed to help primary school pupils who have failed their level 4 assessment in literacy or numeracy tests. There is also a programme for gifted and talented children. In the financial year 20012002, the DFEE allocated pound;19 million towards the summer school programme and more than 1,800 summer schools ran last year. This year, the DFEE has set aside pound;22 million and more than 2,200 summer schools are expected to be operating this year. Although the focus is on literacy and numeracy, many summer schools use ICT resources such as word processors, desktop publishing packages, CD-Roms and the Internet.

The DFEE's Playing for Success is a partnership programme between the Government, Premier League and Nationwide Division 1 football teams, LEAs and business. The programme aims to help children aged eight to 14 develop literacy and numeracy skills in study centres that are based in or near football clubs. More than 40 clubs have pledged support for the scheme, which includes the use of CD-Roms and the Internet. Many of these study centres were widely acclaimed, including Manchester United's. Pupils from the Victoria Park school in Stretford (just down the road from Manchester United's Old Trafford ground) visited the study centre last summer and enjoyed themselves a lot, says headteacher Kath Sutherland. Pupil David Hatton says: "We used laptop computers, which were really good." Bryany Kelly liked the fact that they got to visit the football museum, walk on the pitch and appear on television.

The New Opportunities Fund (NOF) provides grants for summer schools, many of which include ICT clubs. NOF has awarded the grants on a monthly basis and so it is a good idea to check out the website, An example of two recent awards include the Academy of Youth, which received more than pound;1.24 million to run summer schools in 97 schools across England. The schools will include work on science, technology and ICT. LEAs can also bid for NOF funding, and Kent County Council and Kent Children's University have received pound;150,000 for summer school activities.

There are a number of educational activity centres and trips which provide children with lots of outdoor and indoor activities (such as abseiling), as well as as lots of hands-on ICT experience. The Kingswood Educational Activity Centres offer residential courses for ICT, adventure activities and field studies for primary, middle and secondary school pupils. The centres are based in the Isle of Wight, north Norfolk coast, Staffordshire, north Wales and the Lake District. Kingswood's ICT action adventure includes using control technology with LEGO Dacta, a cartoon studio module, which uses a digital camera to create cartoons, creating revolting food menus for a website cookbook, producing a website of your favourite pop group and producing a CV using Flash animation software. Each computer lab is equipped with PCs and some also have iMacs, as well as peripherals like printers and scanners. All students have their own computer to work on.

Exploring ICT from PGL Adventure offers nine ICT activities. The conrol and modelling session includes using LEGO Dacta to build robots and program them for various activities. Children can also program Roamers (floor "turtles"), as well as datalogging. Other activities include multimedia publishing, creating a music video, exploring the Internet and building your own website. There is one computer per two pupils and PGL's ICT centres are in Shropshire, Surrey and Perthshire. 3-D Education and Adventure has centres in the Isle of Wight, Weymouth and Devon.

3D Education and Adventure's ActiveIT programme includes sessions on the basics of animation, exploring the Internet, using digital cameras and imaging software to create a poster and recording archery scores on pocket computers and then putting them into spreadsheets. In ExploreIT, pupils' off-site visits and on-site activities are combined with ICT. For example, pictures or data collected during a field trip could be put into a PC back at the centre. Study Experiences offers ICT study experience at Disneyland Paris for GCSE and ASA-Level students. The three-day course includes three seminars involving Disneyland Paris staff and there's a chance to enjoy the theme park's attractions.

Many of the major theme parks combine fun with education and this often includes some form of ICT. Legoland Windsor has 50 interactive rides, shows and workshops. The LEGO Dacta pavilions (which are reserved for school parties during term time) provide lots of activities involving control technology. LEGO Mindstorms provides an introduction to robotics using intelligent LEGO bricks. A new attraction, LEGO Racers was launched this year. Here, visitors get the chance to play a computer-based game that involves designing and building your own virtual car and then racing it against the opposition in a special racing pod.

Alton Towers offers lots of white-knuckle rides, which use sophisticated computer technology to control operations. The rides include Oblivion, Nemesis, Corkscrew and the latest, Submission.

Drayton Manor caters for school trips with visits to two museums and education packs covering maths, science, English and design and technology. Thorpe Park's attractions include the Vortex high-speed rotating ride, the Detonator, which plummets 100 feet and exerts a 5.5 G-force on those brave enough to try it, and a Pirates 4-D experience, which lets riders feel the action as well. Chessington World of Adventures offers many rides and a chance to see tigers, gorillas, sea lions and other animals. Blackpool pleasure beach is Britain's number one tourist attraction with more than seven million visitors a year. Its attractions include the state-of-the-art ride Valhalla, an interactive maze and Ice Blast, which catapults riders up a vertical 210ft tower at 80mph and then blasts them back down. Sound like the type of ride you take before having lunch?

George Cole is a freelance journalist and a former teacher For information on prices, opening times and so on.The DFEE has information on summer schools and Playing for Success schemesKingswood Educational Activity Centres. Tel: 01263 579157 Adventure UK. Tel: 01989 769011 Education and Adventure. Tel: 01273 676467 Experiences. Tel: 020 8335 4455 Windsor. Tel: 08705 040404 Towers. Tel: 01538 704015 www.altontowers.comDrayton Manor. Tel: 01827 287979 Park. Tel: 0870 4444466 www.thorpepark.comChessington World of Adventures. Tel: 01372 729560 www.chessington.comBlackpool Pleasure Beach. Tel: 0870 220 0204

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