Arts, crafts with bread and jam for a quid

5th December 1997 at 00:00
At 3.30 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays most of the 20 pupils of Minard primary south of Inveraray are to be seen setting out for the village hall. All are enrolled in the after-school club and a large majority attend most meetings, unless they have other activities of their own like dancing or swimming.

Anne Paterson, the school head, says that the success of the club, which has become a centre for pilot projects in Argyll, is due to "the goodwill of the community". There is also enough money to pay for three part-time leaders.

The local authority has given Pounds 2,000, the small grants scheme from the Lottery Pounds 2,700 and the Rural Forum Pounds 700 specifically for training.

"We have used the training money creatively," Mrs Paterson says.

It has given the part-time leaders skills which would be useful elsewhere in the labour market, and there has been training through projects in physical education, dance and art which have extended the scope of the leaders as well as benefiting the children.

It is important that the after-hours activities take place away from the school, Mrs Paterson says.

"A change of environment is needed, otherwise the children would be in the same place from nine until six."

When they arrive, they get a snack. "We put out bread, jam, cheese and so on and they dive in themselves" There is a quiet area where children can do their own homework if they choose.

Otherwise the programme is of games, arts and crafts, and occasional visits to the nearest swimming pool and sports centre.

There are also visitors. The acclaimed Fablevision theatre company brought their St Columba production, which tied in with the pupils' projects to mark the anniversary of his death.

"We try to forge links between school and after-school themes," Mrs Paterson says.

The new Highlands arts project, Hi-Arts, is using Minard for a pilot project in the visual arts.

It will provide 32 hours' activities, focusing on rain forests - another tie-in with the school curriculum.

The club is registered with the local council under the Children Act and the three paid leaders as well as all parent volunteers have been vetted, without protest about intrusion.

Parents pay Pounds 1.25 a session for the eldest child and Pounds 1 for younger members. There have been no problems with that, although Mrs Paterson accepts that Minard is a relatively well off area.

"The club allows parents, especially mothers, to take employment which otherwise might be difficult with school hours. It also offers care of the highest quality."

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