Off-roading in the playground

Clutch control and emergency stops have joined algebra and grammar on the curriculum for pupils at a South Wales comprehensive.

Twice a week the playground at the Llanelli secondary is given to instructors from a local driving school, who are teaching pupils over 16 how to drive safely.

The scheme was the idea of two administrators at Dean's Driving School after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and fatal accidents involving two young drivers in the area. "We started thinking we ought to promote safer driving, " said Cheryl Beynon.

They approached the 810-pupil Ysgol Gyfun Y Strade, and the new head Geraint Roberts jumped at the idea. "It involves real instructors, and it is taught through the medium of Welsh, which is in line with our school policy. And I thought it was a tremendous opportunity.

"It's providing pupils with an opportunity to get behind the wheel in a controlled situation.

"I'm not saying these are the sort of people who are going to jump into a car and race around town. But driving accidents are always in the news and this is giving the right message to our sixth form as well as younger pupils."

Pupils pay Pounds 5 for a half-hour lesson, of which Pounds 1 goes into school funds.

Dean's now hopes to extend the scheme to other schools in Wales.

Hamish Burns, aged 16, said he enjoyed his first go in the driver's seat. "I learned quite a lot in the first lesson. It was basically starting off, driving forward, changing from first to second and then down again.

"A lot of other pupils wanted to take part but some didn't put their names down. Now they all want to do it."

But the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is more cautious. "The emphasis shouldn't be on controlling the car as such, which might encourage people just to want to get through the test, but to put across the broader aspects of hazard awareness and perception," said the society's spokesman Roger Vincent.

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