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University helps leap up leagues

Few 10 year olds devote serious thought to which course they would like to study at university.

But for one day each year, pupils at Furrow Community Primary in Rochdale are encouraged to put aside the more pressing concerns of PlayStations and pop videos to discuss the merits of different university courses. Chris Windle, the head, believes that it is this forward-thinking attitude that has enabled her school to achieve the country's largest improvement in key stage 2 results between 2004 and 2007.

Many of Furrow's 187 pupils come from deprived areas of Rochdale. The proportion eligible for free school meals is significantly above the national average. But Ms Windle believes it is her role to extend pupils' ambitions. Every year, Years 5 and 6 are taken to nearby Manchester University, where they meet students, discuss courses and learn about university life. "Some of our children have limited experiences, so we need to provide these experiences for them," she said. "We show them what they need to aim for in life."

When Ms Windle took over in 2004, only a third of pupils were achieving the expected level 4 in their key stage 2 tests. This year, this had risen to 100 per cent in maths and science and 96 per cent in English. "There's nothing quirky," she said. "We just work hard as a school. We have a consistent behaviour policy.

"We're conscious of the tests, because it's something we're judged on, isn't it?

"So we have regular assessment and pupil-monitoring programmes. We're very passionate about giving children a chance in life."

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