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Welcome to the karaoke crammer

Motivational study breaks at Butlins could help GCSE students to end on a higher note. Joseph Lee reports

Hundreds of pupils this week took study leave to extremes and headed to Butlins just weeks before their first GCSE exams.

Rather than burn the midnight oil in front of textbooks, they sang karaoke with redcoats at the holiday camp in Skegness. And while fellow students slaved over homework, they tore around the go-kart track or hit the dance floor.

But their teachers said they had earned it. The 200 pupils, from five schools in Lincolnshire, were chosen for the trip after attending revision classes at weekends and in the holidays. And even though they were in a holiday camp, they had intensive tutorials from 9am to 5pm to learn revision skills, exam technique, and brush up on important subjects.

Stephanie Hill, 15, who attends St Clement's college in Skegness, said she was enjoying the trip but added wistfully: "I just wish it was anywhere out of Skeg."

Her friend, 16-year-old Amy Ross, was enthusiastic - especially about the karaoke in which she sang Peter Kaye's hit "Amarillo" with a group from her school.

"The redcoats were dancing and singing along," she said. "They really got into it. It's definitely better than being in school."

Adrian Reed, head of Haven high school, also got into the spirit with a rendition of "The Long and Winding Road", described by one student as "some old song".

But they were more upbeat about his singing. "He wasn't that bad, actually," said one pupil.

The four-day conference, which took place in typically windswept British holiday weather, is intended to raise students' ambitions, encourage them to continue in education and improve their exam results.

Dr Cheryl Berry, director of education and cultural services at Lincolnshire county council, said she hoped the pupils would achieve results 10 per cent above their predicted grades on account of the extra support.

"It's partly a reward for all their effort so far," she said. "But it's proved that if we can keep motivation going right through to the summer exams, people achieve so much more."

Many students involved attend secondary modern schools, and the local authority hopes the conference will help to dispel any feelings of failure from the 11-plus.

Also on hand to help was Miles Hilton-Barber, a motivational speaker who went blind at the age of 21 but has since climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, tackled six consecutive marathons in the Sahara desert and flown across the English Channel in a microlight.

"My life was turned around by changing my attitude," he told students. "The only limits in our lives are those we accept ourselves."

But the message will take a while to sink in. Margaret Reeve, head of St Bede's Catholic science college, asked some of her pupils if they felt inspired to emulate the speaker's heroic feats.

"Nah, miss," said one. "I'm scared of heights."


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