Thank goodness the holiday's over

5th September 1997 at 01:00
Well, it's been a long hard summer for parents of hyper eight-year-olds. That school bell a couple of weeks ago was welcome, not least for working mothers: some playschemes or sports courses still seem determined to penalise us wicked women and, therefore, our children.

Can anyone tell me why council-run facilities in a single city (such as Edinburgh) vary so much in their equal opportunities policies? Can standards not be enforced from the centre? Why can, say, Meadowbank keep providing such excellent evening sports courses for kids while others offer nothing after 4.30pm?

One swim centre told us last week this would eat into the funds they raise from adults at popular times. Another leisure centre runs attractive holiday playschemes from 10.30am till 3.30pm, raising problems for delivery and collection of eager children.

On inquiring, I was told - by a woman - that this was a deliberate change in policy. "Mothers were using it as childcare!" she said indignantly. Not, it seems, because they want their children to have fun, and can't run them to and fro in the middle of their working day.

Alas, another grouse this week. We all know cash-strapped schools have to raise funds in every way they can. But where there's a quid pro quo, I think parents should be told what it is.

Big supermarket chains seem to be helping out schools in various ways these days - collect x coupons for musical instruments, etc - fair enough, it may be blatant pressure to shop, but we know what the deal is. A while back, though, I was surprised to see my daughter's full name and winning competition drawing all over promotional brochures for Sainsbury, which were delivered to homes throughout Edinburgh.

Harmless publicity in this case, but I wasn't asked permission. But my worries about just what else is going on were magnified when pre-teenagers from a private preparatory school interviewed us for a "shopping survey". Some said it was for a geography project, others thought it was preparation for Common Entrance.

But the scent of a large rat twitched my nostrils at some of the questions. Did we use any of those special cards supermarket chains issue - you know, free bottle of wine for 40,000 points - and if so, which? What odd questions for a geography project! How Common Entrance must have changed!

Whatever the deal was, whichever company was involved, 10-year-olds should not be used as unpaid market reps for enormously wealthy supermarket chains.

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