WITH only five weeks to go, Thirsk School is racing against time to find a £7,000 shortfall in its £50,000 bid to achieve specialist school status.

So far £43,000 has been raised and, if the bid is successful, the Department of Education and Skills will provide a one-off capital grant of £100,000 and about £123,000 a year for four years with two-thirds going to Thirsk School and one third going to partner schools and the community.

If granted, the school will be one of very few schools in the area with such status. The chosen specialism is maths and computing.

Graham Cressey, chairman of the governors, said: "This specialism has advantages, not only for employers and students, but also for community education.

"It will benefit all the pupils in a broad educational concept and not, in any way, in a restrictive field.

"The aim is to raise standards of achievement in the school and support its contributory primary schools.

"Teaching and learning will be revolutionised with more computers and interactive whiteboards.

"Additionally, computer programmes will assist learning in every subject from music to PE and from modern languages to the sciences.

"Governors believe that this is the right strategic direction to secure the long-term future of the school.

"The school has a strong governing body, excellent and committed staff, and good leadership.

"The existing good quality educational framework has been recognised by local businesses, individuals and organisations.

"Their generous support has raised £43,000 in sponsorship to make the bid possible.'

In 2002, headteacher Chris Lewis won the North of England Leadership Trust Award.

Mr Lewis said: "The award will mean that we remain a comprehensive school and will still seek excellence in every subject.

"But with specialist mathematics status, the school will be a leader.

"All our other subjects will be enhanced too by the new computers so everyone will benefit.

"We will need to add to the staffing complement and buy a lot of software and technological hardware and extend the computer network fit for the twenty-first century.

"Employers nowadays are looking to recruit youngsters with more relevant computer skills and ICT so we are looking to their future."

He added: "The school is most fortunate and grateful for the support it has received in sponsorship so far but is understandably keen that the £7,000 shortfall is met as soon as possible.'

Anyone who can help is asked to contact him on 01845 522024.

Substantial amounts have been received from Thirsk Infant School Trust, former pupil Guy Reed, and Keith Boardall on behalf of the Reed Boardall Group, Cleveland Steel and Tubes, Multidrive, Teleware, Severfield Reeve Projects, Steve Clements, Thirsk Farming Community, Barker Partnership, HSBS (Midland Bank), Rotary Club of Thirsk, Robert Thompson's Craftsmen and two anonymous donors.

Thirsk Regeneration Initiative has provided funding towards the writing of the submission to the department.

The parent teacher association has committed itself to raising funds as sponsorship and staff and students are fundraising with bouncy castles at lunch time, sale of bacon sandwiches, non-uniform days, quiz nights and the sale of Valentine's cards and roses among the activities.