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Eco-pad and pencil for child castaways

WHILE the adults on the hit Castaway 2000 television series get away from the rat-race, their junior companions will be enjoying a bit of escapism themselves: from formal schooling.

Seven children, aged four to 10, will be joining adults on the remote Scottish island of Taransay over the next year as part of a BBC survival project, sheltering in wooden "eco-pads" and eating food grown and slaughtered by their parents.

But their education will be as big a challenge for the community as any other, according to Castaway's producers.

If things go awry, the Western Isles education authority will quickly put a stop to the junior Robinson Crusoes' adventure.

Responsibility for schooling will fall to Julie Lowe, a primary teacher who has not taught for11 years, Monica Clooney, a post-16 lecturer, and enthusiastic amateurs.

The children will be categorised as being home-educated and receive only two hours of formal lessons a day. The rest of their time will be spent on "projects", allowing them to participate in communal work.

Musical instruments and a computer (without Internet link) have been installed in the schoolhouse and modern teaching materials provided, in stark contrast to the spartan lifestyle outside classes.

"But the key thing," insists producer Jeremy Mills, "is the richness of the experience these children will have."

One decision the teachers may be grateful for is the exclusion of teenagers from the island- producers decided life there would be unbearable for them.

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