5,000 inner-city pupils to sample university classes

INNER-CITY pupils will have the chance to attend summer schools at leading universities in an attempt to persuade them to enter higher education, the Government announced yesterday. Ministers are following an initiative pioneered by Peter Lampl, a millionaire entrepreneur who is running summer schools at four universities.

Tony Blair said that, from next summer, about 5,000 pupils aged 16 or 17 would get a taste of higher education at summer schools in at least 12 universities including Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College, London, Sheffield, York, Birmingham, Nottingham, Southampton and Bristol. Teachers will also be encouraged to spend time at the colleges so that they can raise expectations of pupils who would not normally consider university.

Mr Lampl's Sutton Trust will receive pounds 30,000 of funding next year as part of the pounds 350m Excellence in Cities programme, which aims to raise standards in inner-city schools. Mr Lampl is spending about pounds 500,000 on his summer schools - also open to pupils outside inner-city areas - which will continue alongside the Government's pounds 4m scheme.

The Prime Minister and David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, announced the scheme at La Sainte Union Convent School in Camden, north London. Mr Blair said: "Too many talented youngsters in inner cities have been written off because of where they come from."

However John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, warned that the middle classes would exploit the scheme. "Children of middle-class people who live in this area will make sure they get into these summer schools. That is the history of mankind."

Mr Blair said that there would also be help for struggling pupils. "We will liberate teachers struggling to deal with classroom chaos by using welfare officers and on-site pupil referral units. It will give them the freedom to teach." Mr Blunkett said: "Summer schools in our top universities will help bring about a big change in the culture of many schools."

Co-ordinators in the six areas covered by the scheme - inner London, Leeds/Bradford, Sheffield/Rotherham, Birmingham, Manchester/Salford, Liverpool/Knowsley - will pick the students most likely to benefit. The schools will cover science, arts or social sciences, and offer experience in a company, leadership training, team-building and problem solving.

Gifted pupils aged 10 to 14 will also have the chance to attend 500 summer schools, and Mr Blair announced 50 new "beacon" schools, which will get grants to spread good ideas to neighbouring schools.

Meanwhile Oxford University announced that more state school than independent school pupils have applied for places at its colleges for next year. The university says that it is the result of its initiatives and Sutton Trust-funded summer schools.

t Conservatives announced plans yesterday to publish league tables of test results for seven-year-olds, and to give schools more freedom over admissions and the curriculum.

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