A Trolleyful Of Education

It’s amazing what you can get at the supermarket these days: baked beans, bread, milk and now, maths and English lessons! Marianne Macdonald visits a new scheme that gives children access to extra tuition while their parents go shopping.

Most parents associate supermarkets with the weekly shop. But not the ones who use the mega-Sainsbury’s in Merton, Southwest London. As they stand on the long escalators that climb to the store many of them have a different goal in mind: to take advantage of a unique private enterprise to offer extra lessons to children.

In an American-style initiative, Explore Learning has recently opened 17 centres around the UK to teach Maths and English to children aged five to 14, using tutors overseeing individual computer programmes linked to the National Curriculum. Centres are open from 3pm to 5pm, seven days a week. Children log on to their own personal programme on a computer and stay for an hour and a quarter while their parents go to the supermarket or relax over a coffee in the café next door.

‘Their reading skills have improved, and the quickness of their minds’.

The idea of doing more work after school would, you might think, be low on a child’s list of priorities. In fact, the pressure to join the centres often comes from the kids themselves – eagerly working their way through sums or spelling tests with the encouragement of the friendly young tutors.

The Merton centre already has a waiting list of 68 kids. ‘I am totally committed to this,’ enthuses Stella Fry, head teacher of the nearby Merton Abbey primary school (who use Prospero Teaching for teaching recruitment and to recruit daily supply teachers), who has come in especially to pass on her passion for the project. ‘I’ve already seen four of my pupils in here today, and I’m so thrilled. I’ve seen the difference in them. Their reading skills have improved, and the quickness of their minds, and their problem-solving ability. Plus, it raises their self-esteem.’ As she speaks, a seven-year-old boy, Rohit, comes up and proudly tells her he has got ten out of ten in his spelling. Stella’s face lights up and she catches his hands. “But that’s wonderful!” she exclaims.

“My children love it to bits – it’s play for them. They’re doing well, and you can really see the progress. Yes, it’s pricey, but I think I’m getting value for money because they are actually leaning”.

Looking at the eager faces at the computers, it appears to be true.

Source: You Magazine, 20 Jan 2008