Sunday lessons aim to raise standards

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The Independent Online
Inner-city schools throughout the United Kingdom are trying to improve their exam results by teaching pupils for longer hours. The West Yorkshire comprehensive which has decided to open on Sundays is the latest example of this use of extra schooling.

Grange Upper School in Bradford, which came near the bottom of last month's school examination performance tables, is preparing its GCSE candidates by giving them extra lessons in maths, English, science and personal and social development on Sundays. About 85 per cent of the school's pupils are Muslim and many speak English as a second language.

After-school homework clubs where GCSE pupils can do supervised homework and receive extra tuition are becoming increasingly common, especially for inner-city pupils. The Prince's Trust has funded a number of homework clubs, including some in Bradford. A two-year evaluation of the project by Professor John MacBeath of Strathclyde University found that 9 out of 10 pupils who went through the scheme increased their chances of passing exams.

Homework clubs are usually held at the end of the school day, but some local authorities - such as Birmingham - are laying on extra activities at weekends. Birmingham Children's University offers primary pupils many subjects from maths to drama on Saturday mornings, and offers summer holiday workshops.

Birmingham city council also combines with the Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities to fund Saturday supplementary schools in the basics.

For secondary pupils, there is the University of the First Age, which offers additional opportunities for study in the summer holidays.

City Technology Colleges, set up by the Government with help from industry, stay open for longer hours than most state schools in an effort to raise standards.

Labour has promised summer schools to help pupils catch up with reading before they enter secondary school. However, research shows that there is no simple relationship between more work and higher standards. For example, school inspectors have emphasised in their reports that homework may be worthless if it is not well thought out.

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