School's out for Slovenia (if you're lucky...)

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The Independent Online

Lessons will be out for hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren tomorrow afternoon as heads either send classes home early or allow school television sets to be commandeered to watch England's critical World Cup match against Slovenia.

Some schools – like Wortley High School in Leeds – will be letting pupils out at 2.40pm, leaving time to get home for the 3pm kick-off. The match could see England dumped out of the tournament at the earliest stage, alongside North Korea and Cameroon.

In a letter sent to parents, Wortley said the decision was in response to a "strong student voice" asking for pupils to be allowed to watch the game.

Other schools in the area have taken a similar stance. However, the majority will keep children in school – either suspending classes or turning a blind eye to their TV sets being used for extra-curricular activities.

Princethorpe Junior School in Birmingham is allowing pupils – with the consent of their parents – to leave lessons and congregate in the school hall to watch the game on TV.

Andrew Grant, head of St Albans School in Hertfordshire and chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference – representing the traditionally boys-only independent schools like Eton and Harrow – said his school had "avoided" activities like drama clashing with the World Cup.

He conceded: "I have no doubt our TV sets will be used for non-educational purposes that afternoon."

Melvyn Roffe, head of Wymondham College in Norfolk, one of the handful of state boarding schools in the country, said: "We won't be suspending period five. However, after that, they can go straight back to their houses which have TV sets and watch the second half.

"The advantage of that is they may miss out on 45 minutes of agony watching the team. They can switch on for the second half and either be pleasantly surprised or be shocked and turn off. Either way, we can halve the stress for them."

In bad news for those teachers keen to skip out to watch the game, many schools are unable to close early because they have arrangements with bus companies to pick up pupils at a certain time which cannot be changed.

Other pupils still have A-level or GCSE exams.

Meanwhile, economists said there could be a small negative impact on national output tomorrow as offices, schools and factories become distracted by the football: there will be less work done, deadlines may be missed and deliveries delayed.

However, any fall in output will be balanced by greater demand and production of beer and takeaway meals. Howard Archer, chief economist at Global Insight, added that if England lost, "there will be a likely reduction in potential absenteeism from work on days that would have been England knock-out stage matches".

Energy companies are braced for a huge surge in electricity demand as fans turn on TVs and then, at half-time, kettles.

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