Murder mystery at Saturday school

Gifted children set gruesome challenge at local private schools

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Pictured at the classroom 'murder' scene are (left to right) Shaquare Haynes, 11, from Lena Gardens Primary School, Hammersmith; Melanie Winyard, 11, from St Stephen's Primary School, Shepherds Bush; Keisha Langley, 10, from Lena Gardens Primary School, Hammersmith, and Dr Graham Hardy, teacher from Latymer Upper School, Hammersmith.

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Primary school pupils had the chance to help solve a murder when they took part in a mock crime scene investigation at a local Saturday school.

The children found out how forensic scientists play a vital role in police investigations when they carried out examinations of fibres and fake blood in the realistic classroom exercise. They DNA tested fibres found at the scene of the 'murder' of Yvonne Burke, primary advisory teacher for gifted & talented education from the council.

Pupils from Hammersmith & Fulham borough primary schools are improving their knowledge of science, maths and English as well as geography, art and drama with the help of Serious Fun on Saturdays, which is run in partnership with two independent schools.

Serious Fun on Saturdays is targeting pupils from 14 state primary schools in Hammersmith & Fulham and three state primary schools in Richmond - all of whom have been identified as needing extra challenges or help through the 'gifted & talented' and 'widening participation' schemes of Excellence in Cities (EiC), the government's flagship education programme to raise achievement in inner city schools.

Gifted & talented and widening participation activities also take place in the borough's schools and at other centres - including the Kingwood City Learning Centre, in Fulham, built by Hammersmith & Fulham Council with money from EiC.

The Saturday school classes are taught by teachers from two leading independent schools - Latymer Upper School, in Hammersmith, and St Paul's School, across Hammersmith Bridge, in Barnes - with the support of student mentors from those two schools. Serious Fun on Saturdays is run by Hammersmith & Fulham Council's primary EiC staff and project co-ordinator Michelle Burke. Funding has come from the educational charity SHINE: Support and Help in Education, which has given the Saturday school a three-year grant.

Yvonne Burke, primary advisory teacher for gifted & talented education from the council's EiC team, said,"The Saturday school has been going amazingly well since it started last year. The pupil turnout has been brilliant and they have done some really incredible work, which has raised achievement levels and given year six primary school children some excellent additional preparation for the move up to secondary school."

The programme, now in its second year, gives pupils five weeks at Latymer Upper School and five weeks at St Paul's School, allowing pupils to take advantage of the high quality facilities at both schools.

Among the sessions taking place at Latymer Upper School were the crime scene investigation, led by Latymer teacher Dr Graham Hardy, a cookery lesson and classes in geography, graphics, chemistry and computing. Nearly 80 children attended.

On Monday, July 4 pupils who have taken part in the latest ten-week programme will celebrate their achievements in a day of activities and presentations at St Paul's School, in Barnes. The children will all receive certificates of achievement at the event, which will be attended by parents, representatives from both councils, the participating schools and SHINE.

Cllr Melanie Smallman, cabinet member for education, said: "This challenging and imaginative programme stretches our most able pupils and gives extra support to children who need to raise their levels of achievement. The independent school teachers who lead these wonderfully engaging classes, with the help of student mentors, have shown fantastic commitment to the programme, which has given local children some really exciting educational experiences to help prepare them for the move to secondary school in September."

June 20, 2005