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Yellow card from council

Lessons in hundreds of schools were suspended for two hours for England's World Cup match against Tunisia on Monday.

Headteachers brought forward the school day to ensure an early finish, or rearranged lunch times so pupils did not miss out on the excitement and could not be tempted to truant.

However, the inconvenient timing of England's first fixture in the World Cup campaign led at least one local education authority to show the yellow card to schools intending to televise the match during lesson time.

Brighton and Hove council wrote to every school, in a letter signed by education director Denise Stokoe, stating that while education chiefs understood the interest in the game "the LEA does not support the closure of a school or the suspension of lessons to watch World Cup football matches".

A council spokeswoman said that officials had had to spell out their legal obligations because they believed some schools intended to screen the match.

"The head makes the ultimate decision on whether the game is shown or not but we had to make our own duties clear," she added.

The timing of the match suited some schools better than others. In Oakwood Grammar School, in Maidstone, Kent, teachers rearranged internal end-of-year examinations to allow boys to watch the game on a large screen in the hall.

Mike Newbold, the headteacher, said GCSE and A-level year groups were on study leave, which left only 350 pupils in school.

"Boys who wanted to work could do so in a room which had been set aside but none chose to do so," he added.

"Watching the match together was a lesson in team-building and enabled staff and pupils to share an experience together and with the rest of the country. The pupils did not miss any lesson time."

At Westwood High School in Leek, Staffordshire, lunchtime was rearranged and pupils given extra homework if they wanted to watch the game.

The deputy head, Mike Gledhill, said he feared that some children might be tempted to truant. Three-quarters of pupils, including many girls, wanted to watch the match, he added.

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