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Deprived pupils less likely to benefit from cultural activities

A #163;25 million Government programme, which funded five hours of "cultural experiences" for each pupil every week in 10 pilot areas, most benefited those from white and affluent backgrounds, according to an official evaluation of the scheme.

Children from ethnic minority groups and those eligible for free school meals were least likely to participate in music, drama and other arts activities run as part of the Find Your Talent initiative.

Younger children and girls took part in projects more often, research by Ipsos Mori and consultant SQW found.

Former children's secretary Ed Balls launched the initiative in 2007. He pledged to spend #163;25 million between 2008 and 2011 in 10 "pathfinder" areas, in which local authorities would work with arts organisations to run activities.

The initiative was managed by charity Creativity, Culture and Education and overseen by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, but was scrapped by the coalition Government last June.

"The amount of time spent participating seems to decline with age: it is highest among children in school years 1 to 3 and lowest among children in school years 10 to 11," the evaluation report said.

"Levels of participation varied among specific groups. Older boys, ethnic minority groups and those eligible for free school meals were least likely to participate in the last seven days when interviewed, while younger children, girls and those from white and less deprived backgrounds were most likely to do so."

Pathfinder areas include North Somerset, Leicestershire, Tower Hamlets and Liverpool.

Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Brian Lightman said: "We never thought allocating a set amount of time for cultural activities was the right approach. It should instead be an integral part of the school day and not a "bolt-on" initiative."

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