PROBLEM primary school pupils in Bolton are to be sent to a revolutionary new centre to save them from being expelled later in their school life.

The centre will be one of the first of its kind in the country.

Investigations will be made into why the children, as young as seven, are misbehaving or struggling in school and steps will be taken taken to cure problems and stimulate youngsters' interest.

Parents will be involved in the rehabilitation of their children and education officials say they are certain the project will reduce the number of expulsions in years to come.

The Fowards Centre will be based at the former Fourgates Primary School in Westhoughton.

Children aged between seven and 11 will attend part-time, sharing the week between the centre and their usual schools. Each child will have a 12-week placement at the centre.

A total of £620,000 has been allocated from the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund for the centre's running costs over the next two years.

A team of special needs assistants, teachers, a counsellor, an educational psychologist and an educational social worker will be at the centre to help the children.

Youngsters will be taught in small groups with the opportunity to learn through play, but the general atmosphere of the Chorley Road centre will be similar to that of a school.

Every child will have a tailor-made learning programme, but will still be following the national curriculum.

The centre, which will have a special family room and a counselling room, opens next month and primary school heads will first refer pupils to a panel of educational experts who will consider if specialist help is needed.

Last year, 81 pupils were excluded from schools in the town, which was in line with national rates, but Bolton has introduced a series of innovative schemes to reduce this number over the coming years.

Bolton's emotional and behavioural difficulties co-ordinator, Jenny Trevena, said: "We need to look at why these children are not coping and listen to what they've got to say.

"The earlier we can catch the youngsters, the more chance there is that they won't have problems as they get older. Hopefully, in years to come there won't be as many children excluded thanks to a scheme like this."

Dr Brian Iddon, MP for Bolton South-east, said: "We want to engage the attention of all pupils and a centre like this has been needed for a long time.

"Helping them while they are in mainstream education can be difficult, but this is a good way for them to catch up."

Ruth Kelly, MP for Bolton West, said: "This is an exciting initiative to be pioneered in Bolton.

"The involvement of parents as well as pupils is the key to ensuring that children get the most of the education system.

"I am sure it will help to reduce the number of school expulsions in Bolton."

DO you think the new centre is the right way to tackle problem children? Write to Letters to the Editor, Bolton Evening News, Newspaper House, Churchgate, Bolton, BL1 1DE.