IF you can’t beat them — join them!

That is what schools in Bolton are doing and capitalising on the craze of social networking in the classroom to raise standards.

Obami could become the new buzzword for youngsters.

For Obami, soon to be trialled in local schools, uses the Facebook phenomena but with an educational twist in a secure network with systems in place to keep the children safe.

Obami is used in South African schools, where it was piloted a year ago, and schools in Bolton could be the first in the UK to sign up to the free network.

This week the children at Ladybridge High School, Deane, gave the site a test run.

They can post photographs, add friends and chat to them but also have instant access to resources, submit homework and “replay” their lessons.

Josh Stodart, aged 12, said: “Not all my friends are on Facebook so this will make it easier for me to contact and keep in touch with more of my friends.

“You can do the same as Facebook but you can also get feedback from teachers on your work. Everything you need is one place so you don’t have to go on different sites.”

Lewis Gosling, also aged 12, added: “This is really exciting, you can get teachers’ feedback on homework, get help from your friends as well as keep in touch, play games and write blogs.”

Head of technology, Stephen Astley, said the beauty of the programme was that it is simple to use for teachers and takes the virtual learning environment (VLE) to another and more interactive level, with teachers uploading lessons such as a science experiments which children can watch. Mr Astley said: “Obami.com is a unique groundbreaking solution for schools to use the social benefit of sites like Facebook in a safe and secure way to improve learning. This is a great opportunity for Bolton schools to be the first in the UK to provide the site to local students. We are always looking to engage the pupils further, and its takes the current VLE system on. The teachers found it a lot simpler and the children have found their way round it.”

Obami founder Barbara Mallinson, a young South African entrepreneur, said she had had positive feedback from the schools in South Africa. She added: “Social networking is an aspect of young people’s lives and this is an extension of that.”

Pupils say they would be more inclined to do their homework. “You can message your friends, and get help which helps you improve. You can post your work which you can’t do on Facebook,” said Philip Winstanley. Adil Parkhetia, aged 12, said: “It will make homework less boring. It will be good because you will be able to talk to children in different countries.” Sam Burrow, also aged 12, concluded: “It makes learning much more fun.”