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A summer of learning

Going to school during the summer holidays may not sound like much fun, but the Summer School programme designed to help children develop literacy and numeracy skills has proved popular, not least because of the role played by ICT. Children who are classified as gifted and talented can also attend summer schools, and many of these participate in activities that use ICT. Buckler's Mead school in Yeovil, Somerset, has 1,100 pupils aged 11 to 16. It runs summer schools for its three main feeder schools, with around 10 pupils from each feeder school attending the summer school.

The summer school runs for two weeks from the end of July and last summer the programme focused solely on numeracy. This year it will also cover literacy. The small number of students attending summer school means that pupil-to-computer ratio is 1:1 and there is also lots of staff support: "An adviser told us that our summer school could only succeed if we had a generous staffing ratio," says Alan Pearce, the school's head of English. The summer school has two teachers, classroom assistants and a handful of Year 11 pupils to help out.

The literacy summer school will use four units provided by the DFEE and will include using a word processor for writing in different styles. The pupils will also use desktop publishing packages to create leaflets and all children will also produce a diary using the PowerPoint presentation package. There will also be an opportunity to use a digital camera to take pictures and add images to the PowerPoint presentation. Buckler's Mead school has a screen in the foyer that can display PowerPoint presentations and some of the pupils' work will be shown there.

The summer school programme is free and that also includes trips to Weymouth Sea Life centre and the Imax cinema in Bristol. When the children finish this year's summer school, they will receive a pencil case with geometric equipment or a dictionary, depending on the programme they have attended. "We get 100 per cent attendance on the summer school and the kids have lots of fun - they love it," says Pearce. So much so, that some of the parents of children who attended last year's programme have already asked if their kids can go to this year's too.

Stoke Park School and Community Technology College in Coventry has around 1,200 pupils aged 11 to 18. Steve Allen, Stoke Park's deputy head, says the school has an open-door policy (it's open from 7.30am until 9pm) and so summer schools are a natural part of the school's life. Stoke Park has received a pound;120,000 grant from NOF to offer literacy and numeracy programmes to Year 5, 6 and 7 pupils and the school runs a range of activities throughout the year, including Saturday morning workshops (with breakfast).

The summer school runs during weeks three and four of the holidays (August 6-17) and is free, although a small charge is made for a day trip to Drayton Manor theme park. This year, there will be three summer school programmes covering literacy, numeracy and able and talented pupils. "ICT is a very good motivational tool, and the children write a weekly diary on a PC," says Allen. The summer shool also uses RM's SuccessMaker integrated learning system for developing basic skills. "Children also develop additional ICT skills such as using PowerPoint. They also learn some Internet research skills and how to design basic Web pages. ICT is great for developing comprehension and grammar skills. It's an excellent programme and we could have doubled the number of pupils wanting to attend the summer school, but we want to maintain the good staff-to-pupil ratio," says Allen.

The Bishop of Hereford's Bluecoat school in Hereford has 1,200 pupils aged 11 to 16. This is the school's third year of running a summer school programme. In the first year, the school ran a literacy programme, last year it ran literacy and numeracy programmes, plus a summer school for gifted and talented pupils (which it calls the Bright Sparks programme). This year, the school will run a similar programme, although this time it will also include children who could be described as "middle of the road". "We felt that those children in the middle who worked hard and got along fine missed out," explains Trixy Goodger, the school's literacy co-ordinator, "because the summer school is also a good bridge between primary and secondary schools."

This year's programme will run from July 21 to August 3 and will involve around 130 pupils from the 50 primary feeder schools. The summer school programme is funded by Herefordshire LEA, although the school is also looking for sponsorship funding. Among this year's activities will be cookery using ICT. Pupils will use cutting and pasting skills on a word processor package to sequence a jumbled-up recipe, and then in an afternoon session, use the recipe to do some real cooking. They will also write stories on a computer and play a software version of Scrabble, which proved to be one of the most popular activities last year.

The Bright Sparks pupils take part in an activity called "Publish and be Damned", which involves writing and publishing their own newspaper in a day. The pupils use Microsoft Word, Excel and Publisher packages and a graphics package. The activity also involves searching the Internet for information. "The pupils loved doing it last year and so we'll definitely do it again this year," says Goodger. A lesson on citizenship involves going to the House of Parliament website and playing a game on the site. Another activity, Snack Attack, uses a CAD (computer-aided design) program for designing the packaging for a healthy snack bar, which is produced on a computer-aided manufacturing machine. The children also create music on synthesisers and create their own CDs on a PC. They also carry out science investigations on a computer: "Those with literacy difficulties liked using the computer once they got used to them," explains Goodger. "Their confidence grew as they knew that if they made a mistake, they could easily rewrite it, and their presentation looked much better than if they had used pen and paper. As a result, they really enjoyed writing their stories on a computer." George Cole

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