Minister names first sports and art colleges

The first tranche of the new breed of specialist colleges for sports and the arts was announced this week by Cheryl Gillan, Education and Employment Minister.

Three of the six sports colleges are designated as community schools or colleges, as are two of the three new arts colleges. Only one has grant-maintained status and most score about average in the league tables.

Mrs Gillan, speaking at Barking Abbey school in Essex, one of the sports colleges, said she wanted to see many more spread throughout the country to feed into the national academy of sport which was "about to come on stream".

"You have all heard of Millfield with its excellent reputation for sport. There's no reason why we shouldn't have lots of Millfields in the maintained sector," she said, adding that she wanted more schools to apply for arts status.

Chris Gittins, head of Theale Green Community School, near Reading, one of the arts colleges, said the new money would mostly go for increased staffing to reduce class sizes in the arts and developing facilities to be used jointly by local people. A lottery bid would follow. "It's a means of putting the arts on a par with other subjects. We'll have fun with it-there's little enough of that in education."

The DFEE received 26 bids in the first round for sports colleges, but only six for arts. The Youth Sports Trust was appointed by the department to advise and develop schools' applications, but there is no similar specialist advisory body for arts colleges. The Technology Colleges Trust, however, advises schools for all specialist status. Applications came from all over the country and were supported by MPs from all parties.

Alison Banks, principal of Beacon Community College, Crowborough, East Sussex, a sports college, said schools only had two months to prepare a bid so the time scale was a big deterrent for many. She said community schools had an advantage as they had established sponsorship links with businesses.

Steve Dinnie, head of PE and dance at South Dartmoor Community College, a fast-expanding 11-18 school, hopes the bid will be used for a residential centre for outdoor pursuits, training for elite sports squads and for dance and the expressive arts, using land and buildings given in sponsorship by a property company.

The new colleges bring the numbers of specialist schools up to 231. There are 42 language and 180 technology colleges. Each school must demonstrate an interest in a specialism, draw up a three-year plan for improving standards in the subject, raise around Pounds 100,000 in sponsorship and build links with sponsors so they are involved in developing the school. In return, the Government gives Pounds 100,000 extra capital funding and an extra annual funding of Pounds 100 per pupil.

Sue Campbell, chief executive of the YST, said 70 schools were interested in becoming sports colleges. "We are delighted with the response; schools have risen to the challenge superbly." The deadline for the next round of bids is May 17.

The new sports colleges are Barking Abbey; Beacon Community College, Crowborough, East Sussex; Burleigh College, Loughborough; Oakbank GM School, Keighley; Siddal Moor High School, Rochdale, and South Dartmoor Community College, Devon.

The arts colleges are: Theale Green Community School, Berkshire; Latimer School, Kettering, and Parkside Community College, Cambridge.

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