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Kayak to karaoke: all to keep kids happy

Kite-making one day, a nature trail the next and horse riding the day after - the young people of Coldstream are in for a busy summer. At least those taking part in the out of school activities offered by Coldstream Community Centre will be.

The seven-week programme which, unusually, is open to older children (from nine to 16 years), offers the chance to take part in a wide range of activities to relieve the boredom of the long holidays and solve childcare problems faced by many working parents.

The Coldstream project is one of the initiatives to have benefited from the Irvine Laidlaw youth project, backed by pound;1 million from the Scottish businessman and pound;250,000 from the Executive.

The Scottish Out of School Care Network received a pound;50,000 research grant to pilot services for older children, the Coldstream venture and another in a social inclusion area.

Irene Audain, chief executive of the network, comments: "Coldstream is one of the few clubs in Scotland catering for the older age group. Services for older children is the next big thing.

"Parents and young people themselves want things for this age group but they don't want them to be like childcare projects. They want them to involve the young people and be more like a youth club. There is a large gap out there in activities for the older age group."

From metal detecting to sea kayaking, youngsters can attend as many or as few days at they want. The cost of a day is pound;5 (pound;2.50 for the morning and pound;2.50 for the afternoon) with some activities, riding for example, costing pound;10. With limited places - 16 in a group - pre-booking is advised.

Claire Knox, project leader of Coldstream Youth Centre, who has co-ordinated the summer programme and leads the activities with assistant youth worker Andrea Whiteman, says they are already proving popular.

"This is the first seven-week summer programme we have done," she says. "We ran a two-week programme over Easter and we weren't sure how that would go but it was really popular. The maximum number of places we had was 255 and we filled 225. The children had good fun.

"Most of the days for the summer programme are already booked with about 12 or 13 children coming to each one. It's going really well."

The community centre also runs an after-school club and a youth club for older children every weekday evening.

"We are the only after-school group in the area," Claire Knox comments.

"There isn't a lot in the community for nine to 16-year-olds. After-school care tends to stop at about nine or 10 years of age. So there seems to be a gap there and older children seem to miss out on activities.

"The main aim is to provide childcare for parents who are working. We do educational things like the nature trail or fun with photos and we have a lot of outdoor activities.

"It's getting them out and about and getting them to have a go at things and to socialise. We have children with behavioural difficulties, and it seems to be good for them - they seem to get on better with their peers in a different setting from school; it is relaxed and they are in a smaller group."

As they wandered through the woodland area looking for holly leaves and weeping willow trees, 11-year-old Mazi admits: "I thought the nature trail might be a bit boring, but now that we are trying to find things out and are looking for things it's good fun."

They all agree that having organised activities throughout the summer holidays is a good idea.

"It stops kids getting into trouble," says 13-year-old Matthew.

"It's much better than staying at home and playing on your PlayStation or whatever," adds Anja, aged 12.

And 10-year-old Ross, who plans to attend every activity day throughout the summer, says: "I come along to have fun. There aren't many young children where I live, so I get to meet other children."

Twelve-year-old Lee is looking forward to taking part in all of the activities she has signed up to do. "I'm doing a lot of different things," she says, "but I can't do the horse riding because I'm allergic to horses."

Claire Knox planned the programme to vary the activities as much as possible. "Coldstream is so rural - where else are the children going to get the same opportunities?" she asks.

"Compared to childcare costs, it is quite cheap and it is much better for them to be doing something and having fun than sitting at home all day."

Coldstream Community Centre 01890 883332. Scottish Out of School Care Network 0141 564 1284.

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