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Essex snubs Easter schools

Some local authorities have shunned holiday classes, saying Year 6 pupils do enough work. Helen Ward reports

TWO of the four largest education authorities have snubbed the Government's Easter schools programme for primaries, saying that 11-year-olds have enough work to do in term time.

Essex, which has around 450 primary and junior schools, and Hampshire, with more than 300, both declined to run any of the four-day schools covering specific literacy and numeracy skills.

But other authorities had hundreds of pupils involved in the extra classes, aimed at improving the percentage of children reaching level 4 in this week's tests.

Thurrock had the highest proportion of schools in the programme - 17 of its 38 primaries sent pupils.

The authority, which came 17th from bottom in the league tables last year, decided to run its extra classes on Saturdays rather than at Easter.

It had funding for 13 four-day Easter schools but instead used seven centres and lengthened the course to six days.

Mike Ruffley, study support manager in Thurrock, said: "We wanted children to have the opportunity to at least attend these workshops. The way we looked at it, it was free extra tuition for them."

Lancashire, the largest authority, had funding for 39 Easter schools, followed by 26 in Northamptonshire, 24 in Kent and 24 in Staffordshire.

Easter schools were not run by Essex, Hampshire, West Sussex, North Somerset or the London boroughs of Wandsworth and Ealing, according to figures from the Department for Education and Skills.

Don Allen, Hampshire County Council's executive member for Education, said:

"Hampshire schools chose not to run Easter schools on the basis that any child needing extra encouragement or support receives it during term."

A spokeswoman for Essex County Council confirmed that the authority did not run Easter schools because it was considered too much for children and teachers to take on.

Easter schools were introduced this year as part of the new primary strategy. They consisted of four literacy hours and four numeracy lessons for children on the borderline between level 3 and 4.

Local education authorities, Excellence in Cities schemes and Education Action Zones could claim pound;1,000 towards each Easter school of 25 pupils.

The option was also taken up by top-performing authorities. The London borough of Richmond, which last year was beaten only by the City of London and Isles of Scilly, ran two Easter schools and Kensington and Chelsea ran one.

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