The Government's literacy summer school offers light relief at Alton Towers. Susan Young and Allen Edwards report
Staff at Foxford School only heard of the Government's summer literacy scheme for children from deprived areas when they had a surprise phone call on the day they broke up for half-term. The comprehensive in Coventry made a snap decision to get involved that afternoon. Senior staff decided to take part even though the school is currently being completely rebuilt.
There is a wide range of literacy levels among children starting at the school. Forty-five per cent of the pupils are Asian and many have English as an additional language. Staff say the school has a typical spread of achievement for an inner-city area; overall attainment levels in English at 11 are below the national average.
Under the scheme the school is to receive a Pounds 9,000 grant to help 30 11-year-olds out of 180 new pupils, who are due to move up from feeder primaries in September. The school hopes to teach a mixture of boys and girls of all ethnic backgrounds in small groups.
Staff plan to offer places to children who have reached levels two or three in English, who are supported by their parents and are committed to coming to a series of activities during the summer holiday. This should be relatively easy to organise as many families do not leave the area for their holidays.
Headteacher Mike Layton hopes the scheme will encourage children to improve their literacy through fun activities. He would like to see children move up a level or at least progress within the level they have already attained.
Mr Layton would like to combine the Government's literacy scheme with a summer play scheme offering sport, trips, and arts- and craft-based activities, as well as with a proposed project to use puppet- and kite-making to help raise literacy levels.
The school has been offered Pounds 3,000 of National Lottery money to carry out the latter project. Teachers would encourage children to talk and write by focusing on what they have created. Pupils would also be able to use reading material on popular subjects such as pop music.
Mr Layton admits the literacy scheme will tend to help those whose families encourage their children but he says it has to start somewhere. He is convinced children will not be stigmatised for taking part but will gain self-respect and the respect of their peers.
More details will have to be thrashed out during the rest of the summer term, but the project is being closely supported by staff from the local education authority.
Mr Layton said: "We have to make this fun. Reading for three hours on the trot would just turn children off.
"It is quite imaginative to use children's slack time and it is good to be offered extra resources after being expected to do more for nothing under the last government."