Labour enlists football clubs to tackle literacy shortfall

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Indy Politics
Switched-off youngsters scoring low marks at school would be lured back to learning at study centres in football stadiums under plans being announced by Labour today.

In the latest of a package of Labour proposals aimed at raising Britain's ranking in the literacy league, top football clubs would open their doors to inner-city pupils for evening homework sessions and lessons in the three Rs.

In return for their efforts, youngsters would be rewarded with a chance to take to the pitch afterwards for a match or for football coaching.

Labour believes the initiative, developed jointly with the Premier League, could be the one answer to the problem of flagging basic- skills standards, particularly among disaffected boys.

Girls are currently 10 per cent ahead of boys in GCSE exam scores, while among 11-year-olds only 57 per cent reached the expected standard in literacy.

The study-support centres, each capable of accommodating between 60 and 100 children, would be launched at Arsenal, Newcastle United, Chelsea and Sheffield Wednesday football clubs, though Labour expects more to come on board as the scheme progresses.

Pupils would be able to attend on weekday evenings or Saturday mornings, probably for two hours at a time.

With support from a mix of experienced teachers and student volunteers, primary-age children would be given timetabled literacy lessons, while secondary pupils would brush up on basic skills.

There would also be space for children to do supervised homework, and computer facilities for training in information technology.

Though the sessions, on offer free to local pupils, would not be compulsory, Labour expects volunteers to be "queuing up" to attend.

Labour's education spokesman David Blunkett, a Sheffield Wednesday supporter, said the scheme was "an excellent and cost-effective means of raising standards and improving pupil motivation".

He added: "It is a unique and valuable venture in which everyone is a winner."

Funding for the scheme, being launched by Mr Blunkett at Chelsea Football Club today, would be split three ways between the Department for Education and Employment, the football club, and private sponsors.

Each study centre would receive up to pounds 50,000 capital money, mainly for computer equipment, and pounds 100,000 a year to cover running costs.

The stadium study centres would add to Labour's proposals for a new daily literacy hour in the national curriculum and extra training in literacy teaching for primary teachers.

The party said last month it aimed to bring 80 per cent of 11-year-olds up to nationally set standards by 2001 and 100 per cent by 2006.