Only the good go gliding

13th June 2003 at 01:00
Pupils at a 'challenging' north London school have been given the incentive of flying lessons as a reward for good behaviour. Adi Bloom reports

"CILEM, was you scared? Was you scared? You was scared!"

Playing to her audience, 13-year-old Cilem Dogus rolls her eyes. Her tone is measured and slow, and she relishes the awed gasps that greet her words.

"When I went up, my heart was going. I felt like I was going to die. But it was one of the best things I've ever done."

Cilem, with her classmates from Islington Green school, in north London, was on a one-day trip to Dunstable airfield, near Luton.

The 10 pupils from Years 8 and 9 had each been offered the chance to take a flight in a glider as a reward for good behaviour and school attendance.

Simon Dean, the maths teacher who accompanied them, believes the day out provides an incentive to behave well, where more conventional rewards, such as merit points or book vouchers, might fail.

"I've had a lot of kids approach me asking about the gliding," he said. "I put it to them straight: gliding requires self-discipline so I can only take kids who display excellent behaviour in school."

The temptation of pure, self-indulgent enjoyment is particularly attractive to pupils at Islington Green, a school notorious for its disadvantaged, challenging intake.

Mr Dean said: "Giving these children the opportunity to do these sorts of things is really important. We're trying to bring some sort of quality to their life."

That is why Mike Woollard, head of Dunstable-based Faulkes Flying Foundation, approached Islington Green with the offer of subsidised flights.

Members of the public pay pound;65 for half an hour in a glider, but pupils receive two flights for pound;15. The rest of the cost is covered jointly by Martin Faulkes, millionaire philanthropist and gliding enthusiast, and by the charity Kids Out.

Dr Woollard said: "We want to show pupils that life can provide excitement without having to resort to anti-social activities."

Legally, pupils cannot be taken for a simple pleasure ride. Instead, each is given an airborne mini-lesson in a motorised glider. When the engine cuts and the long, slow descent begins, control of the plane is given to the pupil co-pilot, who single-handedly - if shakily - directs it back towards the airfield.

It is this element of her flight that Cilem dwelt on during her monologue.

As she reached her conclusion, 14-year-old Tyrone Irving gasped and said:

"I didn't tell my mum I was going to fly the plane. She'll be really impressed.

"Most people think flying a plane is like rocket science."

"Most of them don't think they can do it," said Dr Woollard. "But within five minutes they're taking the controls. When they later come to other things in life that they think they cannot do, they will remember this experience and realise that maybe they can."

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