X-rated and open all hours

6th May 2005 at 01:00
In the twilight zone after lessons end and before pupils leave is an enigmatic block on the school timetable called "Session X".

It is the name Caroline Chisholm high school in Northampton gives to its extra activities, which range from sewing and drama to puzzle and X-Box clubs.

Assuming a Labour election win, one of the Government's main tasks will be encouraging all schools to follow Caroline Chisholm's example and to open their doors from 8am until 6pm.

The school is "extended" in more ways than one. Unusually, it teaches pupils from four up to 18. An even wider age range uses its facilities, from toddlers who attend its nursery, to the local football and cricket teams, to pensioners attending evening courses.

The school officially closes at 5pm when Session X activities end. But its site, called the Wooldale centre for learning, remains open to pupils and the public until 8pm.

The facilities are so popular that a music club runs rehearsals in a science lab. Wendy Carson, science teacher, said teachers had been concerned that the extended activities would add to their workloads, but these fears were unfounded. Most teachers help with one club a week.

However, the majority of after-school programmes are overseen by Kajima, a Japanese construction company which built the school and manages its "non-core services" as part of a pound;25 million private finance initiative.

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