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Plug in to learning

FAIRGROUND children Chantelle and Mackenzie Derry's education used to depend on how long the fair stayed in town, writes Nadene Ghouri.

Now they simply plug in and learn wherever they are.

The cousins, aged five and six, are taking part in a European-funded pilot which creates a virtual mobile classroom through plugging an interactive CD player into a TV.

The children work on screen and send their efforts to a central computer in Brussels. There a teacher retrieves it on the Internet for marking.

During the winter they attend King John infant school in Derby. But from March to October the fair is on the road and they are in a new town every few days, making it impossible to attend school.

Florence Barker, voluntary education liaison officer of the Showman's Guild, said: "Fairground people have to travel. If schools could enrol children on a weekly basis, parents would send them. But our education system isn't set up for that, so they miss out on huge chunks of schooling."

The children have been using packages which focus on basic maths and English while business studies and electronics programmes have been designed for older pupils.

Fifty fairground families are involved in the pilot.

Florence Barker believes the scheme could have wider implications. "I can see it working for children in hospital or those at home with long-term illness. Basically it's taking school out to children who can't get in."

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