ROWING will be used to help children learn in a first-of-its-kind classroom.

The IT suite in Durham Amateur Rowing Club's new clubhouse is the first to use the sport to boost literacy and numeracy through the Government's Playing for Success scheme.

During the next year, hundreds of children aged nine to 14 will take part in ten-week evening courses, combining rowing, science, computers and video.

The youngsters will learn about the environment around the River Wear and try their hand at rowing - in the club gym and on the water.

The 100,000 (ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND) facility has been two years in the making and was officially opened, as part of the new clubhouse on Friday (SEPT 14).

Anne Timothy, from Durham County Council, said: "This will complement our facility at Durham cricket club and double our potential to support children in our schools."

The opening of the new clubhouse, on Green Lane, in Durham City, marks the end of seven-year fund-raising effort by the rowing club.

It also includes a bar with outdoor terrace, a large function room, a kitchen, an office and disabled access changing rooms.

Club president Ken Snowdon said: "I'm very proud to see the clubhouse open. It's taken a lot of hard work, time and effort but we have now got one of the best facilities in the country for rowing.

"It can only help to get children active and out onto the water.

"We have had people who didn't know how to row become international class and hopefully we will have some more."

Mr Snowdon paid tribute to the work of club secretary Barry Hudson, who was surprised to find the bar named after him.

"Without Barry we wouldn't be standing here today," Mr Snowdon said.

Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods, who cut the ribbon on the new buildings, said: "The excellent rowing facilities should help to attract and retain members - young and old alike - and will encourage participation from people right across the county.

"It was a pleasure to officially open the new buildings and I hope that they are very well used by the community for many years to come."