Summer reading goes swimmingly

13th August 1999 at 01:00
Schools are adopting unusual tactics to tempt pupils into holiday literacy and numeracy classes. Lucy Bowen reports.

TEACHING reading underwater - with the use of laminated worksheets - is just one of the ploys schools have used to lure children to literacy and numeracy classes this summer.

Peter Harding, the Lincolnshire secondary English adviser, has been averaging 100 miles a day keeping a tab on the 27 summer schools in the county.

He said: "We've used lots of different ways to encourage the children to attend. Some schools have used sport to target boys because their levels of underachievement are higher than girls.

"It was an amazing exercise, and over the two weeks, three children actually learned to swim as well as - hopefully - developing their literacy skills."

Lincolnshire has a good record since taking part in the pilot scheme two years ago.

Last year 60 per cent of those that attended the authority's 12 summer schools improved their literacy.

While Christ's Hospital in Lincoln introduced swimming to the literacy classes, at Robert Pattinson school in North Hykeham, near Lincoln, the pupils spent one of the last days of their summer school marketing a new chocolate bar.

They began by tasting the chocolate and finding new words to describe the sensation. They then used these words to create a commercial which was performed at the end of the day. Everyone got a Curly Wurly bar as a prize.

Carla Andrews, 11, from North Hykeham, said: "The thing I liked best was going to Twycross Zoo. We had to write up what we saw afterwards. But the whole two weeks has been good fun. It's not like being in school at all."

At Shoeburyness High school, near Southend on Sea, children played ten-pin bowling - but without the electronic score pad so they had to use maths to work out the scores.

Summer schools have expanded hugely since the Government introduced the scheme in 1997, shortly after it came to power. This summer sees 1,200 funded by the Department for Education and Employment - with a budget of pound;10 million for literacy and pound;3m for numeracy. Individual education authorities also paid for extra schools.

This year the schools have gone well beyond basic literacy and numeracy. They now hold festivals of learning open to a wider age range and any ability, and covering a variety of subjects. And this year has also seen the introduction of 33 pilot "gifted and talented" summer schools.

Richard Thompson, the learning development manager of Education Extra, an organisation that promotes after-school learning, said: "The 'gifted' and talented scheme is aimed at youngsters with potential who are not necessarily high performers, for example boys with well-developed understanding but who may also have challenging behaviour.

"These programmes are not elitist in any way. All the schemes concentrate on improving self esteem and urging the children to raise their sights higher, and realise their potential."

Next year the summer schools will also be funded by the lottery-backed New Opportunities Fund. The fund will provide pound;25m to ensure 250,000 places by 2002.

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