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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 June, 2003, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
70m boost for school culture
Rolf Harris
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The government has promised 70m to increase the amount of cultural activities in the school day.

Education Secretary Charles Clarke and Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell called on artists, musicians and writers to help enrich the curriculum.

The money will double the areas covered by the Creative Partnerships scheme - in which schools work with relevant organisations - bringing the total to 40.

The announcement comes after the government was accused of making school life "dull and stressful" by placing too much emphasis on pupil tests.

But the National Union of Teachers (NUT) said that, even with more money available, staff would still struggle to find time for more arts activities.

'Raising standards'

Ms Jowell said: "The government is being portrayed as being obsessed with exams, with league tables and with rankings, all of which can have the effect of sucking the joy out of being at school."

"If we allow this idea to persist we run a number of risks - demoralising teachers, frustrating parents and, perhaps worst of all, deadening the spirit of our children."

The extra Creative Partnership Areas - developed by Arts Council England - will be introduced in two phases, from this September and from next April.

It is hoped they will have the knock-on effect of improving life in the communities involved.

Ms Jowell said: "The government wants to see young people from all backgrounds have the chance to use their creativity and imagination in a positive way.

"Creative Partnerships are the means by which we will make this happen."

'Not enough time'

Arts Council chairman Gerry Robinson said: "Twice as many young people and teachers will have the opportunity to work with excellent cultural and creative organisations.

"We are delighted to be able to double the size of the project and look forward to Creative Partnerships benefiting every region in the country."

At its annual conference in April, the NUT voted to ballot its members on boycotting the testing of pupils at ages seven, 11 and 14.

One of the reasons given by delegates was the lack of time left for arts and musical activities.

An NUT spokeswoman said: "The opportunity to expand creativity in the classroom is not just about having money, it's about having the time.

"The National Curriculum is very constraining and a lot of time is taken up with preparation for the exams.

"The amount of money proposed is also not a lot considering the schools affected, but every penny will be useful to any school that can get its hands on it."

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