Heads down, hopes high

16th April 2004 at 01:00
Karen Shead reports on a growing enthusiasm among children to take part in innovative Easter school projects

From multi-activity sports days in the Borders to circus skills in the Highlands, a variety of Easter schools have been taking place up and down the country.

The words holiday and revision may sound contradictory, but for the majority of upper secondary students revision is an integral part of the Easter break, and hundreds of students have come together for special courses in the run-up to next month's national certificate exams.

Revision does not have to be all chore, and local authorities have tried to make it more appealing. Many have run revision classes in nearby colleges, creating a more relaxed atmosphere and exposing students to different teaching styles as well as learning alongside their peers from other schools.

Falkirk College ran classes in a range of subjects as well as motivational and study skills, while local schools ran complementary courses for S4-S6 pupils.

In North Lanarkshire, revision schools for S5-S6 pupils covering four subjects were sponsored by three local colleges and did not cost the students a penny. The authority paid subsistence, stationery and travelling expenses for up to 500 of them.

In East Ayrshire, a variety of approaches was used for subject courses and general study skills. At Stewarton Academy, sessions were delivered in one-hour blocks with a maximum of three hours per day for each subject.

Pupils had the option of staying with the subject or moving on at hourly intervals, which allowed them to spend time on subjects where they needed the most support.

In Highland, eight centres were used for four and five-day courses to help prepare for Higher exams. Donnie MacDonald, the authority's head of education services, says the courses offered revision in key concepts and topics and tutoring in exam techniques.

"I am very encouraged by the number of students prepared to give up part of their Easter holidays to attend these courses. We had a range of subjects available and hopefully the outcome will be that students feel more confident and better prepared to tackle national examinations next term," Mr MacDonald says.

Highland pupils who weren't busy revising were learning the art of tightrope walking, mastering the skills of juggling or immersing themselves in a week of Gaelic culture and language.

Dornoch Academy organised a host of events. As well as the standard study week for S5-S6 pupils and a two-day maths revision course to help borderline S4 students, circus skills, drama activities and a football camp were on offer. The week of circus skills, called the Big Fandango, ended with a performance, which allowed fellow pupils, teachers and parents to see the newly acquired skills put into practice.

Other children in the Highlands took part in a Gaelic tuition festival, where the language and culture were passed on in a community atmosphere.

There were three Easter events, or Feisean, all lasting one week and offering a range of daily classes. In Ullapool (Feis Rois Oigridh), Fort William (Feis Lochabair) and Portree (Feis an Earraich), children learnt several instruments - the accordion, fiddle, bagpipes and harp, to name a few. They also learnt about Gaelic song and language, Celtic art, Highland dancing and crafts. And there were daily sports activities and evening ceilidhs.

A different language was being taught to primary pupils in East Ayrshire - French. But if children didn't fancy putting their linguistic skills to the test, they could have an Easter MOT. This stands for Motivators On Tour, a programme launched by the council to inspire children and young people to adopt healthy lifestyles.

During term-time pupils take part in an activity motivation initiative with a team of seven full-time specialists (experts in dance, health, play and sport) offering activities in school time, after school and at weekends. In the holidays the programme switches to Motivators On Tour and the specialists travel throughout the area - so there is no excuse not to take part.

Sport was covered in North Lanarkshire with the annual Easter Football Academy. Qualified Scottish Football Association coaches led sessions for children aged five to 11. The aim was to develop general fitness and technical football skills in a fun way.

There was football with a difference in West Dunbartonshire, where a programme called New Rush uses football and digital video to explore new skills and talents in pupils who are marginalised at school. Funded by Strathclyde Police, the one-year pilot, which finishes in June, included a football festival and an exhibition of creative work.

The programme uses football participation as the focus and combines it with activities such as digital video, photography, music making, dance and theatre.

Another West Dunbartonshire project over the Easter break was called Dancing in the Street. This uses street dance to encourage pupils within the youth justice system into more positive behaviour (funded by the New Opportunities Fund). The council also ran primary transition projects in dance, where P7 pupils from cluster primary schools worked together in their new secondary school.

Activities around the country were not just limited to the holidays.

Ardross primary and nursery in Alness, near Inverness, started its activities on the last Saturday in March with a sports activity day. As well as games, including slippery pole and a tug of war, there was a bouncy castle, tombola and raffles.

Pupils from Badcaul primary, in Garve, Highland, performed The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde.

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