Best foot forward for culture

Teams of cultural co-ordinators and active sports co-ordinators are to be set up to work together in schools, in a joint endeavour for the arts and sport.

The proposal is among several educational measures to emerge from the Culture Minister's response last week to the Scottish Cultural Commission's report.

The teams will come under the responsibility of the Creative Links programme - set up as a partnership between local authorities and the Scottish Arts Council to develop links between arts and education in formal and informal education.

Although cultural co-ordinators have been working in schools for three years now, local authorities' responses to this programme have varied.

Sources close to Patricia Ferguson, the Culture Minister, said this week it was likely that the programme providing cultural co-ordinators would expand and that the Executive will be discussing how much to increase its current Pounds 75,000 annual funding.

Co-ordinators working on health and environmental issues may also be brought into the culture and sports co-ordinator teams further down the line. The pairing of culture and sport reflects the fact that both these areas come within Ms Ferguson's remit.

The creation of the teams, to work alongside teachers in schools, is part of an underlying philosophy being described as an "escalator" that will ensure the delivery of cultural opportunities from nursery to beyond the end of school.

"It has been a case of 'lucky chance' when talented individuals have worked their way through the system to work in the creative and cultural sector,"

a spokeswoman for the Executive said. "We need to link up the various stages and create an escalator to provide a more planned route.

"The various stages in school education, and further and higher education, need to be linked up in a way that helps the progression of talent."

Creative Scotland, the new arms-length body due to rise from the merged Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen, will have the task of ensuring that the escalator does not fail.

The Executive's response to the Cultural Commission's report endorses its recommendations for putting culture and creativity more firmly at the heart of the revised curriculum. It also backs the principle of local cultural entitlements, adding that it will evaluate models such as Highland Council's programme for Scotland's Year of Highland Culture in 2007 as a potential model for other authorities.

There are also plans to promote awareness of Scottish literature and heritage, including a boost to the Bookstart programme run by the Scottish Book Trust.

However, the Executive's response stops short of some of recommendations by the Commission, such as asking Learning and Teaching Scotland to develop a national strategy for educational materials, visits and experiences, supported by the national companies and institutions.

Gordon Jeyes, former director of children's services at Stirling Council, who served on the Cultural Commission, described the Executive's response in the area of partnerships and entitlements as "a start in the right direction".

John Mulgrew, education director in East Ayrshire and a board member of the Scottish Arts Council, said he felt people were anxious that the momentum built up in recent years around cultural co-ordinators and the youth music initiative (which promises all primary pupils access to a year's musical tuition before P6) should not be lost.

"There is an air of optimism and a lot of questions are starting to be raised," he said.

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