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Year of invention

From Dartford to Derry, imaginations are being fired the length and breadth of the UK. Diana Hinds reports

Is there no end to the inventiveness of teachers and pupils? You might have thought that schools would be so absorbed with administering literacy and numeracy hours that they would not have had time to consider less prosaic issues such as millennium celebrations. But the evidence from around the country suggests the reverse. Already schools are busily hatching ideas, from time capsules, commemorative gardens and community-based story-telling to designing soft drinks for that mother of all parties. So if you haven't got to work yet, here are a few ideas to inspire you. Regional Millennium Experience offices also have plenty to offer, including a teachers' resource pack, Making a Difference in Education.

Dyke House School, Hartlepool, an 11-16 comprehensive, is one of many schools taking part in a national project, "Voices of Promise", sponsored by Marks and Spencer. Pupils aged seven to 16 are composing songs which will be performed locally. The winner will perform the "Children's Promise Song for the Millennium" in the Dome at Greenwich in February 2000 (it might even make next year's Christmas Number One). Dyke House has nurtured a number of rock bands, but will be encouraging pupils to work in other styles too. Information about Voices of Promise: 0870 6081999.

Twelve schools in Banbury, Oxfordshire, have piloted a national scheme to produce a Millennium Tapestry, recently featured on Blue Peter. Twenty-five thousand primary and special schools are being invited to contribute a one-metre square which, when sewn together, could form one of the largest exhibits in the world. Information from the Millennium Tapestry Company on 01295 721334. See TESFriday Magazine on January 15 for further details.

Dartford Grammar School, Kent, plans to celebrate the tradition of scientific invention in the area. The town has witnessed pioneering developments in the cement industry, the first canning of food in 1812 and, in the reign of Elizabeth I, was home to the first paper manufacturer, John Spielman, whose jester's head watermark gave its name to foolscap paper. The school's plans include an "archives road show", with pupils interviewing older members of the community, and a major exhibition.

Wheatley Lane Methodist primary school, near Burnley, Lancashire, is hard at work on a millennium banner, already the recipient of an award from Needlecraft magazine. Each class is designing and producing its own section of the 21ft by 4ft banner, with workshop sessions at a local mill. Local landmarks, including the school itself, will be depicted in a range of textile techniques.

Priory Community School, near Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, is taking part in a nationwide Internet project, "Tesco SchoolNet 2000", mining the history of its local community and building a picture of how life might be in the new millennium. The school is also devising a computerised story-telling project, with help from a similar project in San Francisco. Information about Tesco SchoolNet 2000: 0845 6011423.

Thornhill College, Derry, Northern Ireland, a girls' grammar school, hopes to build a succession of "1,000 hours of learning" projects, focusing on "making a difference in the millennium". These will look at the history and the future of communications, working with well-known Derry figures who have "made a difference" (such as John Hume, Seamus Heaney, Dana), and helping local charities.

Grange Community School, Walmley, Bristol, wants to get all its 800 pupils on a train to visit the Dome in the summer of 2000. It also plans a midsummer festival to involve its community.

St Joseph's Primary School, Wallasey, the Wirral, has helped its regional Millennium Experience office to develop a project based on the construction of the Dome, for use in primary schools nationally. Pupils have piloted the third part of the project, designing and planning a millennium party. Much fun has been had with dome-shaped jellies and mousses.

At Darwin Vale High School, Darwin, Lancashire, an 11-16 comprehensive, year 11 pupils are designing a millennium garden in a long-neglected school courtyard. As well as a Christmas tree, a bandstand and a Shakespeare flower bed (featuring plants named in his plays), pupils plan to bury a time capsule as 2000 approaches.

One hundred schools in Nottinghamshire are helping to build a sculpture from 36,500 used aluminium drink cans (one for every day of the century), to be incorporated into the grounds of Patchings Farm Art Centre. Each school will design 200 messages to be sandblasted on to the cans, 100 relating to specific events in one year this century, and 100 personal messages. The project is being organised by the Greater Nottingham Training and Enterprise Council.

Primary schools everywhere can find inspiration by collecting the TESMillennium Frieze to be published monthly in Primary magazine, starting on January 22.

The millennium education help-line is 0870 6081999. E-mail:

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