Students perfect art of helping others

NO ONE could accuse Bridgewater high school of failing to use the extra money it gets as an arts college for the benefit of the wider community.

The list of activities on offer at the Warrington secondary is a vivid riposte to inspectors' complaints, repeated by ministers, that too many specialists keep the benefits of their enhanced status to themselves.

The school's programme of community work includes line-dancing displays in old people's homes, helping magistrates train withexercises where pupils role-play "delinquents" and productions with firefighters promoting safety in the home.

The Cheshire school is working with 20 local groups, including the health authority and the town's rugby league club. It also has partnership arrangements with fewer than 40 primaries and eight local secondaries.

Bridgewater employs two full-time community arts workers and all arts teachers are given time out to spend on the community programmes. Gerrie Shadwell, assistant head, said: "I seriously believe that arts have the power to make a difference to people's lives, and that is what we are trying to do.

"Once local groups have got to know about us, it has grown like Topsy and now it is a case of sometimes having to turn potential partners away."

Other schools are also making a difference in their wider community. Goffs school in Cheshunt is turning its pioneering work on easing the transition to secondary into a resource that can be used by all schools. The school in Hertfordshire has spent years developing a computer program that pupils can use in their primary school or at home.

It includes around 200 simple exercises and tests introducing youngsters to the work they can expect when they arrive at senior school.

On their first day, they bring in a file of work for their tutors.

John Versey, headteacher, said the first trial group of new entrants had performed 10 per cent better than a comparison control group, when the resource was first introduced. Successive years had shown big improvements in pupil confidence and self-esteem which have been sustained beyond six months and across all subjects.

But everything does not always run smoothly. Canterbury high school next week visits the House of Commons to launch England's first athletics youth academy, part of its successful bid for sports status.

The academy offers athletes of county standard or better the chance to continue academic studies to degree level while receiving high quality coaching.

But despite new facilities worth pound;4.5 million, the academy is looking for sponsorship to cover the pound;26,500 annual cost of coaching, borne by the school and help for student travelling costs of an average pound;1,800.

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