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Schoolchildren (Creative Activities)

4. Ms Ruth Kelly (Bolton, West): What steps he is taking to give schoolchildren more opportunities to participate in creative activities out of school hours. [141876]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): We are providing a number of new opportunities for schoolchildren to engage in creative activities, including sport and arts, both in and out of school hours, and £130 million is being made available to primary schools under the space for sport and arts scheme. From 2002, my Department will make £40 million available to introduce at least 12 creative partnerships, targeted on particularly deprived areas. The new opportunities fund is already providing £205 million to support a wide range of out-of-school-hours learning projects across the UK.

Ms Kelly: What impact will the declaration on sport agreed at the European Union's Nice summit have on creative and sporting activities for our schoolchildren?

Mr. Smith: I am pleased to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the declaration on sport adopted at Nice carries a specific reference, included very much with our encouragement, to the value of using part of the broadcasting income that comes into sport for the benefit of grass-roots sporting activity, especially among children. The declaration rightly identifies sport as special and as having a significance that takes it beyond the normal commodity rules of the EU. However, there is another side to the coin: sport must recognise that it has a responsibility to society, too. That means ensuring that smaller clubs are helped by any transfer fee system; that the grass roots of sport are nurtured with help from income at the top; and, above all, that opportunities are fostered for children to experience and enjoy sporting activity.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there appears to be ample time for sport, art and other creative activities out of school hours in private schools of the kind to which the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble) is fortunate enough to be able to send her child, but that that contrasts starkly with the position in the state school sector, which more than 93 per cent. of children are obliged to attend? Given the over-prescriptive nature of the national curriculum, what will he do to improve the situation in the interests of millions of children who depend, and will always depend, on a taxpayer-financed education system?

Mr. Smith: I have to ask the hon. Gentleman which party was in power in the 1980s, when the collapse in provision of out-of-school-hours sporting activity occurred, and which party was in power when playing fields were being sold off at an average of 50 a month? I also have to ask him whether, were he ever to get into government, he would cut the new opportunities fund money that will go to replace those sporting activities and facilities for children up and down the country.

Mr. Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford): On the new opportunities fund, will my right hon. Friend join me

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in welcoming the extra £20,000 that is going to one of the most deprived areas in Chatham in my constituency, to provide after-school and holiday clubs? That is on top of the £2.4 million from the sure start programme which is being put into that area and which was welcomed by the Tory chairman of social services. The irony is that he would campaign for that to be abolished should the Tories win the election.

Mr. Smith: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That example is just one of many thousands that are now in place around the country. Overall, the new opportunities fund has already committed more than £83 million to out-of-school-hours learning, sporting and artistic activities involving some 6,186 schools up and down the country. That is good news, and we want it to continue.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): I do not know whether the Secretary of State had the good fortune to be in the audience last night for the BBC sports personality of the year awards, and hear the brilliant tribute that Steve Redgrave paid to those who had got him into rowing and supported him throughout his career. He is a role model who shows modesty and dignity. Such inspiration points to the importance of encouraging youngsters into sport while they are still of school age. Would the Secretary of State consider the idea of someone outside school interviewing all youngsters, once in primary school and once when they start secondary school, to see what arts or sport they have a particular interest in pursuing that is either not offered by the school or not sufficiently available within the school timetable and school hours?

Mr. Smith: My hon. Friend the Minister for Sport was present at the award ceremony last night, and I am sure that the whole House sends congratulations to Steve Redgrave on a well-deserved achievement. While we are on the subject of congratulations, can we marry that with congratulations to the England cricket team who, for the first time in almost 40 years, have achieved victory against Pakistan in a test match in Pakistan? The success of our cricketers, rugby union players, athletes and Paralympic athletes has brought a lot of joy to many people in this country. Of course, such success has to be on a broad base of mass participation in sport, especially from an early age. We cannot have success at international level unless we have that broad participation in the early years. School is a very important place for that to start. We shall certainly keenly consider the hon. Gentleman's particular proposal.

Arts Education

6. Mr. Phil Hope (Corby): What contribution his Department is making to the improvement of arts education. [141878]

The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Alan Howarth): Ensuring that everyone has access to high-quality arts education, from pre-school through to lifelong learning, is a key priority for my Department. In addition to initiatives outlined by my right hon. Friend in his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Ms Kelly), we are working closely with partners on a range of policies to deliver that priority, including the Department for

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Education and Employment's £270 million music standards fund and the £30 million lottery-funded National Foundation for Youth Music. The new artsmark scheme will be made available to all schools in January. The Arts Council of England's arts and education interface projects in Bristol and Corby--I know that my hon. Friend has taken a close interest in that--are developing good practice in arts teaching and learning.

Mr. Hope: I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. He will be aware of the excellent work in Corby, through the education action zone, to introduce and expand the arts in poetry, dance and music. A great job is being done. In particular, an Arts Council-funded study is examining the impact of arts education on the broader general development of children in schools--their behaviour, performance and academic standards. Would my hon. Friend take account of the findings in Corby as he rolls out the £40 million programme for introducing arts education in the most deprived areas of the country?

Mr. Howarth: We certainly shall take account of the early findings. That project is not due to produce its final report until 2004, but we are anxious to make good, rapid progress with creative partnerships. My hon. Friend is right to remind the House of how involvement in the arts leads to improved motivation; encourages young people to develop skills; and enables them to experience success and achievement that spreads across the range of their activities and curricular requirements. What we shall learn from the experience in the education action zone in Corby will be of prime importance as we develop our policy thinking in this area.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): On arts education funding, could the Minister confirm whether the extra money that I hope will go through the new opportunities fund to arts education replaces the £97 million reduction in the Arts Council grant from the national lottery? Will he consider what many people think are the ludicrous, complicated criteria for applying for arts funding, particularly arts education funding? Surely applications can be made simpler so that more direct decisions can be taken.

Mr. Howarth: All in all, taking grant in aid and lottery funding together, we are seeing substantial growth. We believe strongly in the priority that we have given to linking the arts with education, and the creative partnerships programme mentioned earlier by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will make an additional £40 million available for the development of new models of collaboration between the two.

The hon. Gentleman spoke of the complexity of lottery funding application procedures. We agree, and have already gone a long way towards simplifying them.

Angela Smith (Basildon): The Minister will know that not all arts education is school based. There are a number of small local community-based drama groups throughout the country, including La Danse Fantastique in my constituency, which also deals with children with special needs. Such organisations, however, find it difficult to

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obtain premises. Will my hon. Friend urge county councils and other local authorities to do all they can to secure adequate premises for those groups?

Mr. Howarth: My hon. Friend makes an important point. Through the creative partnerships, we shall examine--initially in 12 areas of deprivation--how we can bring about more collaboration between the formal education system and the range of arts and cultural organisations in those areas.

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