Hothouse flowers: Part 1

It's 10 am on a bright Saturday morning, but, in a classroom in Hertfordshire, a group of four-year-olds are starting what is, for them, a school day like any other. They start to tap at their keyboards, producing a database of all their toys. Half an hour later they write up the theory that they have just put into practice. Welcome to Ryde College, the place where you are never too young to start. Ryde College opened in 1982 and has R the success of its students. Most of its pupils attend regular state primary or secondary schools during the day, and then have classes at Ryde in the evening and on Saturdays. Pupils come here to get ahead of the rest. You can put a child into a 'technology for a toddlers' class before it has reached its second birthday, or enter your seven-year-old for a GCSE. 100 percent of Ryde GCSE students pass their exams, even though they cover the courses in nine months. Most secondary schools cover the same syllabus in two years. Last year the college's successes included a six-year-old who passed a GCSE in Information Technology and a 10-year- old who passed an A-level in computing. Dr. Ryde, the college's 71-year-old founder, believes that the ethos of the college is the right one: 'When a child is young, their brains are like sponges, they absorb everything you give them, he says. 'By the time they are in their late teens, their ability to learn has lessened. They are the APs of the academic world!


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