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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 August, 2003, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
Butlin's campers to learn online
Redcoats will turn their hands to academic improvement
Holiday camp-goers are to get the chance to improve their reading, writing and maths skills.

Visitors to Butlin's can cut the time they devote to sunbathing, sports and self-indulgence, and instead work towards passing online tests set by the government.

After these, campers get a certificate showing their numeracy and literacy levels, which they can add to their CVs. The tests run up to GCSE level.

Education minister Ivan Lewis opened the first government-sponsored learning centre, conveniently placed between the main holiday camp at Skegness, Lincolnshire, and the beach.

Hi-de-higher standards

A range of computer programmes have been designed to help users advance at their own pace.

Mr Lewis said: "This centre is designed to help people get more out of their holiday and find an enjoyable route back into learning."

"Holidaymakers can achieve a national certificate from any exam board in literacy and numeracy up to GCSE level.

"It will be sent to their home after their holiday and could make a real difference to their CVs.

"Many people have key skills gaps that can be quickly closed with a little booster work."

The company's famous entertainers - the Redcoats - will also use the centre while off-duty, as will support staff.

It is the first educational facility of its type in a UK holiday centre.

The manager of Butlin's at Skegness, Chris Baron, said: "Our new learning centre is sited on the way from the accommodation to the beach and will attract people in.

Ho-de-hope for the future

"Once hooked, people will hopefully want to spend a little time each day enjoying this superb facility and find rewards they never expected on holiday.

"But it's not just about holiday makers - 1,800 of our Butlins staff will have access to free training, as well as parents and children in quieter times.

"Hundreds of non-holiday makers in the area will be able to use this alternative IT-oriented environment."

The Learning and Skills Council, the government agency responsible for funding and planning all post-16 education and training outside universitiesis, is running the project.

Chairman Bryan Sanderson said: "Learning should be fun. Making skills accessible means trying new and innovative delivery.

"Original ideas like this are an excellent way of making people comfortable with a return to learning, perhaps after a break for many years.

"In addition to the direct benefits, we will be looking at what we can learn from this centre and apply to other situations."

The BBC's Janet Barrie
"The tutors say they are determined to make learning more fun"

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