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Friday, October 1, 1999 Published at 05:24 GMT 06:24 UK

Smith unveils Lottery learning projects

Chris Smith makes his keynote speech to Labour's conference on Friday

The first New Opportunities Fund out-of-school hours learning projects will be announced on Friday by Culture Secretary Chris Smith.

Up to 45,000 youngsters are expected to benefit from grants totalling £2.4m to 14 projects in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Mr Smith will announce the new grants during his keynote address to the closing day of Labour's annual conference in Bournemouth.

The projects are aimed at improving academic performance and helping children to learn new skills, particularly in disadvantaged areas.

Half of all secondary and special needs schools are expected to eventually have regular out-of-hours activities paid for by the fund out of Lottery proceeds.

London's Tower Hamlets borough will gain the lion's share of the first wave of grants, with almost £2m going to provide activities at 89 schools.

Projects there will be based on developing work, arts, sports and learning skills. Other areas to benefit include schools in Sunderland, Newcastle, Shropshire and Dorset.

In Northern Ireland, schools in Londonderry, North Down and Belfast will receive grants.

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