A BURY-based education centre will literally be opening up vital learning opportunities for schoolchildren throughout the North West.

The town's Kip McGrath Education Centre has taken top marks to be selected as the organisation's head office for the region.

Now, husband and wife Peter and Maureen McCance will harness their experience and expertise to launch and sustain similar Kip McGrath centres elsewhere in Greater Manchester and the region.

And they are the ideal candidates for the task. Since February 1998, the Kip McGrath Education Centre on The Rock has tutored more than 400 local youngsters in English, spelling, reading and maths.

The children, aged between five and 16, have benefited from the company's carefully-structured programmes of learning which are taught in a safe and professional environment.

Maureen, who taught English and maths in high schools for 30 years before setting up business as a Kip McGrath franchisee, said: "The programmes boost children's confidence.

"They also make them more capable in school, often moving into higher groups, and providing a routine for homework. "The centre assists and supports the work of local schools, but does not compete with them."

She stressed: "By concentrating on the basics of reading, spelling, English and maths, and employing only qualified teachers, the centre offers parents peace of mind when they are looking for help for their children."

The Bury centre has been chosen as the North West head office and, in this capacity, Peter and Maureen are looking to set up more tutoring centres in Greater Manchester and elsewhere.

Peter, who handles the marketing, advertising and other key business aspects of the Bury centre, explained: "The benefits offered are a comprehensive training programme, continually updated materials and the ongoing support of an international organisation.

"The low start up costs, which are under £12,000, offers teachers a unique opportunity to own their own tutoring centre with excellent rewards. We are looking for excellent teachers who enjoy working with children."

Those who establish such centres can ultimately earn up to £60,000 after a few years running their own franchise.

"We see this as a fellowship," declared Peter, "where teachers can set up their own centres, buy the complete package with help from us in terms of finding premises, furnishing, training and support."

Maureen has never regretted leaving her job as a full-time high school teacher and is enthusiastic about her role as a tutor.

"This job takes away some of the negative aspects of teaching in schools, particularly discipline. You have much more freedom and independence and and you're not regimented by the bell.

"I can honestly say I really enjoy teaching again. You can see the children getting on and developing."

Youngsters who attend the Bury Kip McGrath Education Centre are tutored for 90 minutes each week and are given homework to complete.

Some are referred via their own school or directly by their parents. And Maureen says that each child has to agree to undergo the tutoring, making for a much smoother and enjoyable environment of learning.

Kip McGrath, a teacher launched the centres which bear his name in his native Australia 30 years ago. Today, through a network of franchises, there are around 300 such centres worldwide, including more than 30 in the UK and six in the North West.