Millfield Holiday Village, Somerset. School is probably the last place on earth a child would want to go during the summer holidays, but this is not just any school. Popularly known as the most expensive public school in the country, Millfield has a reputation for sporting excellence. It has also developed something of a reputation for its summer school, which is open to everyone. Back in 1971 there were four courses on offer; this year there are more than 330.
Just about anyone. Unaccompanied children aged between eight and 16 are welcome, and campers go on to span the entire age range. Under-threes go free.
Parents don't spend upwards of Pounds 14,000 a year to send their children here for nothing, so the facilities are second-to-none. There are two sports halls, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, dance studio, Olympic swimming pool, indoor riding school, nine-hole golf course - and that's only a few of the sports facilities. There is also a theatre, a maths centre, an audio-visual centre, a library, a music school and a fine arts centre.
What will they learn?
The list of courses is long, but children can opt for a ready-made multi-activity programme with such staples as mountain biking, climbing (there's a climbing wall), orienteering, jet skiing and go-karting. Otherwise, there's anything from dowsing and divining to trout fishing; hammock-making and Egyptian oriental dancing; acoustic guitar and graphology. Given the sporting provenance of the school, it is hardly surprising that traditional sports are so strongly represented: the squash coach is no less a player than Jonah Barrington, and hockey is coached by members of the British Olympic team. But less mainstream activities also get a look in, such as archery, trampolining and even circus skills.
What will they live on?
Three good meals a day served in the dining hall. It is a self-service arrangement; for non-residents, a meal will cost Pounds 4.50.
What's goes on when the sun goes down?
There is a fully organised programme of activities, which will be tailored to specific age groups but which can include roller disco, water polo, karaoke, parachute games, line dancing and laser pigeon shooting. No one will ever want to go to bed . . .
. . . but if and when they do, it will be to the school's boarding houses. Not, as the brochure reminds you, to a four-star hotel. "Only one pillow is provided" and sometimes there are "no bedside lamps in rooms". Unaccompanied children stay in same-sex rooms.
Keeping in touch
Many families go together, even if children opt to stay in rooms with friends or other children, rather than with their parents. This makes staying in contact fairly straightforward. There is a booklet of information for unaccompanied children.
DIY parental job, although the school provides transport between sites for those on multi-activity programmes.
What does it cost?
For unaccompanied children aged eight and over, Pounds 170 for a week, or Pounds 88 for a weekend. If children go as part of a family group booking, it's cheaper. There are also discounts for early bookings (plenty of time left to qualify for one of these for summer 1999). A multi-activity programme costs Pounds 112 for five to 12-year-olds and Pounds 120 for 12 to 15-year-olds. Prices are those in this year's brochure.
And if they hate it...
Parents can come and collect them. But whether the kids will be able to tear them away from the spiritual healing, fossil hunting or herbs for health and beauty is another matter.
Contact: Carolyn Steer, Millfield Holiday Village, Street, Somerset BA16 0YD. Tel: 01458 445823