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Premier league tackles 3Rs

Under-achievers in Newcastle, Sheffield and Leeds will be the first in the country to attend after-school classes at their local premiership football clubs. The three clubs will pilot Playing for Success, the Government's latest campaign to raise standards of numeracy and literacy.

The other 17 clubs in the premier division have also signed up for the Pounds 6 million scheme, which will be financed by the Department for Education and Employment, local authorities, business and the football clubs.

Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett said the initiative would offer disadvantaged youngsters and under-achievers "the right environment in which to do their homework".

He added: "Study centres in premier league clubs, many of which are in inner-city areas, will attract young people who could otherwise remain disaffected in education. Although more and more girls are interested in football nowadays these centres will act as a magnet to many boys. Boys tend to underachieve in the 3Rs."

Each club will offer places to between 250 and 400 pupils a week whom schools believe lack motivation.They will have to meet individual targets in punctuality, attendance and improved class work to be eligible for Playing for Success.

The classes, which will begin in the new year, will focus on the 3Rs and information technology. They will be supervised by teachers seconded from local schools and by student mentors. Brian Philpott, of Newcastle United football club, said: "The power of football clubs should never be underestimated, particularly among 12 to 14-year-olds and increasingly among girls."

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