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The finer art of after-school study

It is a popular perception that children cannot wait to get out of school once the final bell goes. But pupils in South Lanarkshire are showing that if an activity is interesting and worthwhile, they are more than willing to stay behind.

For four years, the council's arts education team has been offering an after-school project to senior secondary pupils studying art and design.

Two-hour workshops take place weekly over 10 weeks from October to December and there are no problems filling the spaces.

"It's a big commitment from the pupils," says Aileen Marshall, the manager of the project, "especially when many have after-school jobs."

What has made the project so popular is that it offers pupils the chance to work closely with practising designers who not only show them how to develop their own design skills but also give them an insight into what it is really like to work in a creative industry.

Each year, three of South Lanarkshire's 20 secondaries have the chance to host a designer. There are workshop places for about 15 pupils in each school and for some senior pupils from the council's three special education schools.

The focus of the project is the design process, the aim being for each pupil to produce an original piece of work and exhibit it in a professional setting.

For the past two projects, pupils concentrated on fashion design, working towards a catwalk show where the music and stage backdrops were also created by them.

This year, the theme is "Text in Motion", with pupils taking inspiration from text in newspapers and magazines, on CD covers, plastic carrier bags and so on. Product designer Cathy Barac is working at Duncanrig Secondary in East Kilbride, textile designer Joanie Jack visits Holy Cross High in Hamilton and jewellery designer Helen McPherson goes into Stonelaw High in Rutherglen.

The project is meant to be fun, with pupils encouraged to experiment with materials and techniques. But the arts education team's remit is to "extend, enhance and support the curriculum", so the workshops are structured. Pupils not only learn about designing a functional object but also the business side of taking a product to the manufacture stage and into shops.

It is something of a coup for the authority that the "Text in Motion"

exhibition will be held at the prestigious National Museum of Rural Life, in East Kilbride, early in the new year. The pupils will also receive a crash course from the museum curators on how exhibitions are researched and designed.

The project is funded entirely from the arts education team's budget - specifically, the national priorities action fund - and not mainstream education funding.

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