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Labour's Chris Smith says ministers forgot about arts

Labour "lost sight of the creative and cultural agenda" when it came to power in pursuit of improved literacy and numeracy, according to Chris Smith, the former culture secretary.

In an interview with The TES, Mr Smith said that when he was in the Cabinet he was beset by complaints from headteachers that the arts were being sidelined, and he was obliged to raise the issue with the Department for Education and Skills.

Mr Smith joins a growing band of prominent figures from the world of art and culture to back The TES campaign for more creativity in primary schools.

In today's paper, Charles Clarke, Education Secretary, says he supports our campaign, but adds: "What the strategy says is that we need both targets and creativity if we're going to succeed."

Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, artist Antony Gormley, novelist Doris Lessing, percussionist Evelyn Glennie and the newly-appointed children's laureate Michael Morpurgo have all backed our campaign.

Mr Smith believes the Government should ensure that all schools do art, music and dance - and use compulsion if necessary.

"The best schools are already doing exceptionally well. It's the not-so-good schools that aren't doing it that need to be encouraged and, on occasion, arm-twisted."

Last week Mr Smith announced that he will be standing down as Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury. From next month he takes up the directorship of a new charity, the Clore Cultural Leadership Programme, which aims to promote young people's creativity.

He said: "When Labour came back into government in 1997 there was a completely understandable emphasis on the importance of literacy and numeracy. However, I think we lost sight of the creative and cultural agenda in education."

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