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Easter pupils find a change is as good as a rest

John Clark asked the pupils at South Lanarkshire's first Easter study school how they found the experience. They liked it

"I've learned more in four days here than I have in a whole year at school." Vincent Goldie, aged 16, a pupil at Hamilton Grammar, was speaking on the final day of South Lanarkshire's first Easter study school at Bell College, Hamilton.

Due to sit three Highers, Vincent explained: "If I wasn't here I'd be sitting at home listening to music and probably be bored."

Vincent was among 400 senior pupils who gave up four days of their Easter break to attend pilot study schools at Cambuslang, East Kilbride, Lanark and Hamilton.

Alan Dick, chair of the education committee, said: "The idea is to target some extra help at pupils the schools believe could really benefit. The courses are not so much for highfliers as for young people who lack that bit of confidence - and maybe find it hard to study or get help with their studies at home."

Karen Dickie, an English teacher at Holy Cross High School in Hamilton, was one of more than 40 tutors. She said: "I'm thoroughly enjoying it because the students are so enthusiastic. They are working with people they don't know and it has brought some of them out of their shells. On the first day they were less vocal but now there's a camaraderie. They are supporting each other and sharing ideas."

Diane Cleland, aged 16, of John Ogilvie High in Blantyre, wants to be a PE teacher. "Biology is the subject I needed help in. There are too many distractions to study at home."

Graham Walker, aged 17, a sixth year pupil at Strathaven Academy, wants to improve on his Highers results of last year. "I got a C for English and failed maths. I'm also doing biology this time. This has definitely helped a lot. It's good to have a different teacher. It gives you another way of doing things. I think it will improve my grades."

But Julie Fisher, aged 17 and in the fifth year at Hamilton Grammar, objected to the image of the study schools. "I read in the newspaper it was for thick or disadvantaged people. I'm neither. I think it's been a confidence booster."

Brian Cooklin, headteacher at Stonelaw High in Rutherglen, co-ordinated the study school at Bell College. He agreed with Julie. "It's not a course for dunces. It's a course for people who are borderline cases and want to build their skills and confidence to make sure they get the grades they deserve.

"It also lets pupils see what college is like. Quite a few have taken prospectuses and leaflets. It's an encouragement to them."

Students could take three tutorial sessions a day in a variety of subjects and were given advice on exam techniques and study skills. Transport was on offer and lunch was provided.

This was the first venture by South Lanarkshire, which received pound;5,000 from Marks and Spencer to help with costs. But other councils such as North Lanarkshire also have Easter schools.

John Cunningham, director for knowledge and learning at Lanarkshire Development Agency, welcomed the initiative: "I hope the Easter study schools and the other measures that schools are taking to raise achievement will help many students push up their grades. A well educated and skilled workforce will greatly enhance the quality of the business we can attract to Lanarkshire."

South Lanarkshire will monitor the results of the the pilot project. If the Easter school succeeds the council will seek to to extend it in partnership with the development agency, local FE colleges and the business community.

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