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Tuesday, October 12, 1999 Published at 12:02 GMT 13:02 UK


Tap dancing boosts results

Dance can give pupils a focus for their energy

More National Lottery money could be used to fund sports and arts schemes in an effort to give new hope to young people in deprived areas.

The BBC's Madeleine Holt: "Disadvantaged children benefited from lessons"
The Culture Secretary, Chris Smith, is proposing new facilities, community venues and inner city playing fields on disused 'brownfield' sites in England - and the possibility of sports bursaries for talented youngsters.

Mr Smith made the proposal in a speech to a social inclusion conference in Coventry.

[ image: Research shows such schemes can cut youth crime]
Research shows such schemes can cut youth crime
"Sports and the arts have a unique ability to break down barriers, and encourage teamwork, discipline, responsibility and creative work amongst young people who might otherwise feel cut off from society," he said.

"Experience from across the country shows that involving people in sporting and cultural activities can help cut crime, as well as improve health, education and employment prospects in deprived communities.

"This programme will provide people across the country with sporting and cultural opportunities they would not otherwise have, and they, and our society can only benefit as a result," he said.

[ image: Chris Smith:
Chris Smith: "These things can make a real difference"
A report published by his Department of Culture, Media and Sport in July indicated that specific projects could achieve significant reductions in crime.

On the Temple Lodge Estate in Swinton, near Salford, a community football scheme coincided with a drop in offences by youths from 44 a month to six.

In Bristol, the Hartcliffe Boys Dance Company has performed to school and public audiences in France, Germany and Belgium as well as at home.


For the first time boys' GCSE results from the area improved until they were better than the girls, against the national trend.

Hartcliffe is an area of Bristol with long-term unemployment and high levels of crime and poverty.

[ image: David Harris: Confidence boost]
David Harris: Confidence boost
The dance company is a six-year-old group that has about 40 boys aged 11 to 16 who show up week after week to learn tap after school - a remarkable achievement in itself, as dedicated dance schools usually suffer a big decline in boys' attendance at this age.

Year 10 pupil David Harris said: "I now have a lot more confidence standing up and speaking in class and in groups."

It has also taught him about discipline and responsibility.

"Rehearsing can be difficult sometimes when you have been doing the same thing over and over again, but you get used to doing it - and that reflects in your school work as well," he said.

[ image: Sally Mlewa:
Sally Mlewa: "Keeps them out of trouble"
The Headteacher of Whitehouse School in Hartcliffe, Sally Mlewa, said: "We have a lot more children coming back after school to do tap dancing.

"And other activities - we've got a lot coming back to do chess - whereas before they would just have been hanging around the streets kicking a ball or looking for trouble."

Mr Smith said the Arts and Sports Councils would be asked to target deprived areas with Lottery money as part of their strategy, currently being drawn up. No specific sums of money are being mentioned at this stage.

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