Summer camps

Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of the long summer break are looming; "crazy" being the operative word for frazzled parents racking their brains for ideas on how to keep hyperactive children occupied. The answer could be a summer camp or school, where children can let off steam through physical and mental activities, including information and communications technology. What's more, it doesn't have to cost a penny. Many schools and organisations are running their own, supported by Lottery and government funding or sponsorship.

The New Opportunities Fund recently announced Lottery-funded awards to UK schools, including nearly pound;1 million to create new summer schools. One of the beneficiaries was Camden Play Service in London, for its summer learning festival for children from 11 local primary schools. Activities include the "Journey of discovery", an interactive cultural history project; and "Read on: surprising things, surprising places", through which children will set up a story website and join storytelling sessions using music, drama, ICT and art. Another recipient is the well-established Tower Hamlets Summer University being held from July 24 to August 18. Courses for 12 to 25-year-olds are also being held at London Guildhall University, EC2, and other venues include: Intr@net, Extr@net, WebDzine, Photoshop, Internet Radio, animation, presentation graphics, basic keyboard skills, Excel and database mixed with dance, drama, languages and sports.

Langdon Summer School in Newham has been awarded NOF funding for the next three years. Its two-week programme caters for more than 300 students from Years 5 to 10, encompassing everything from drama and sport to literacy and numeracy for Year 6 pupils. Many courses help build ICT skills, such as making "Wanted" posters out of mug shots, and it is an essential component of English, drama and science sessions. A huge increase in motivation was observed after last year's school, says Barry Herson, Langdon School's deputy head. "Having enjoyed the summer activities, pupils started back in September in a positive frame of mind, and those transferring from primary to secondary already knew the school, teachers and some of its students. In addition, primary and secondary colleagues were able to share good practice."

Some centres in Wales are running schools funded by grants from local education authorities or the EC. Bridgend's special needs service, for example, offers literacy and numeracy summer schemes to children from socially deprived communities. Year 5 children spend seven mornings on numeracy at a local primary school and a three-day residential at Ogmore Education Centre. Last year the average gain was 8.85 months. Literacy sessions for Year 6 pupils involve 19 morning sessions at four local comprehensive schools using the THRASS scheme (Teaching, Handwriting, Reading and Spelling Systems), Word Shark and desktop publishing computer packages, mixed with recreational activities and a visit to a theme park on the last day. Dr Gareth Price, assistant director for special needs services, says: "Last year, there was a significant improvement in comprehension skills and gains in computer skills and self-confidence that gave them a head start in their new schools."

In the Rhondda area, 11 to 19-year-olds can learn about computers or improve ICT skills with the Cynon Valley Summer School project at Mountain Ash YMCA, July 31-August 3. They will gain the skills to upgrade computers donated by large companies, which they then take to use in their clubsorganisations. Or they can try the new Beddau and Tynant Training Centre in Pontypridd, with state-of-he art multimedia equipment, funded by Rhondda Council and an EC grant. Computers for beginners and introduction to the Internet courses commence here on July 24 costing pound;5 for 20 hours. At Tonypandy Community Education Centre, young people can sign up for photography, ICT, first aid, dance, food hygiene and a recreational daytime club, and at an eight-day computer graphics design course, young people aged 11-plus will gain enough expertise to produce a professional newsletter for youth clubs.

Redruth Community School, Cornwall, is among the summer schools that employ RM software, such as SuccessMaker, a literacy and numeracy-based integrated learning system. Its third government-funded literacy summer school for Year 6 pupils needing extra support and Year 7s wanting a head start at secondary school will comprise literacy hour sessions, Reading Recovery programmes, time on SuccessMaker, wider reading, storytelling and swimming. In the afternoon, children might follow and research a local heritage trail or take part in drama or technology workshops - designing and making chocolates is popular.

Some lucky children get to explore the hallowed grounds of their local big football ground and may even meet some of their soccer heroes. For example, Leeds United's Playing for Success project, funded by the DFEE, is planning a range of summer schools to improve literacy, numeracy and ICT skills for such groups as transitional key pupils (aged 7 to 14) and "G and Ts" (gifted and talented children). Programmes include work on SuccessMaker, numeracy trails around the grounds and trips to pleasure parks. Courses are also held in the Headingley Complex, home to the Yorkshire County Cricket team.

Should money be no object, there are a number of commercial, residential summer camps incorporating ICT options. 3D Education and Adventure, for example, runs CyberZone weeks in Osmington Bay, Dorset, for ages 10 to 13, costing pound;304. They comprise sessions on computer animation, LEGO Mindstorms Control and the Internet interspersed with such activities as abseiling, five-a-side football, quad biking, parachute games and water skiing.

Traditional US-style camps are coming here this summer in the shape of ACE Computer Camps, based at independent schools in six counties. Campers aged eight to 17 can mix, compose and create their own music, play networked games and tournaments, master software, write and design Web pages, work on week-long projects like "Start your own company" and "Make your own movie" and have a daily swim. New this year is a project with soft-ware developer Oracle's service, a community website learning environment, which allows children to publish, debate and collaborate, and teachers to moderate and stimulate activities. A week costs pound;475 residential or pound;375 non-residential with up to 20 per cent of places free to disadvantaged children.

Valerie Hall is is a TES staff writer

New Opportunities Fund Tel: 0845 0000121

Tower Hamlets Summer University Tel: 020 7247 7900 (Elizabeth Lynch)

Bridgend special needs services Tel: 01656 642618 (Dr Gareth Price)

Cynon Valley Tel: 01685 872334 (Steve Lewis)

Beddau and Tynant Centre Tel: 01443 204551 (Paul Brown)

Tonypandy CECTel: 01443 435076 (Gareth Jones)

Redruth Community School Tel: 01209 215507 (Peter Flood)

Leeds United Tel: 0113 247 5918 (Mark Hopkins, education officer)

Playing for Success

3D Education and Adventure, Tel: 01273 676467

ACE Computer Camps Tel: 080 800 22677

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you