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Kilns back in a glaze of glory

Up to 11,000 secondary pupils could benefit from a #163;200,000 donation from two charitable foundations, aimed at encouraging schools to restart school kilns, many of which have been dormant for years.

Art teachers will take part in training schemes this term at their local HE institutions, before embarking on ceramics courses at their schools and learning how to operate their kilns.

The scheme, called Firing Up, is the biggest schools-based project to date run by the Crafts Council. It plans to get 55 secondary schools involved in ceramics over the next three years.

Simon Steff, art teacher at one of the participating schools, New Heys School in Liverpool, said the reluctance by art departments to use their kilns was down to their lack of technical knowledge.

"It takes a while to get up to speed," he said. "When it's firing you want to get as much done as possible because it takes a long time to heat up and a long time to cool down. One of the other technical sides is colouring and enamels. You have to fire the initial clay, then it can be quite an art form to get the firing temperature right again. It's more like chemistry."

The Craft Council approached two funding bodies, the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, to help back the scheme.

Sarah Jane Dooley, grants officer for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, said it had made the #163;96,000 grant (a figure matched by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation) because the application had fitted its criteria of innovative ways of working.

"We hope that it will have an impact on policy and the curriculum and be rolled out and replicated," she said. "We're supporting it for three years and hope it will have a longer life."

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