After-school activities hit the jackpot

25th July 1997 at 01:00
Diane Spencer reports on how schools are set to benefit from lottery reform

More cash from the so-called "People's Lottery" will be channelled into education and distributed by the New Opportunities Fund if a Government reform goes ahead.

The proposal is in a White Paper, launched on Monday, which also sets out plans for a National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts to foster talent and creativity. Legislation is expected this autumn.

Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said the priorities of the new fund caught the mood of the country.

The education part of the fund will focus on two initiatives: out-of-hours activities to help raise pupils' achievements; and more help with information and communications technology for teachers and librarians.

"By 2001 we want high quality programmes of regular learning activities established in at least half of all secondary and a quarter of all primary schools," the White Paper says.

But, recognising the formidable challenges the city faces, it assumes the targets will remain unattainable until 2004.m homework, children would be able to take part in drama, sport and team games, structured play and special interest clubs. These activities are intended to raise children's self-esteem, increase their motivation and so contribute to higher standards at school. They could help disaffected young people get back on track with their education and give older children a chance to work with younger ones.

Working parents would also benefit from having their children in a safe and stimulating environment after school.

The proposals envisage bids for cash from schools, local education authorities, training and enterprise councils, voluntary organisations, libraries, and a combination of these.

Bidding arrangements must be flexible, not bureaucratic. "We want to encourage bids from primary schools, schools serving disadvantaged communities and those with little experience of raising money."

Voluntary organisations such as the Prince's Trust and Education Extra could help schools put bids together, it said. Bidders will need to have won support from other parties which need not be financial. Support in kind, such as volunteers from a local organisation, could be just as valuable.

Lottery funding will be for three to five years. Bidders will have to show why they need the money, how they will fund their project once lottery money runs out and how the success of the scheme will be measured.

The second education strand of the New Opportunities Fund will ensure that the nation's 500,000 teachers can use the new technologies and help their pupils use them. The Government also wants at least one librarian in every library trained to help people learn to read with the help of the new technologies.

The White Paper points out that nearly half of all teachers had only received basic training in information technology. In libraries, the position was even worse with only 10 per cent rising above the basics.

The fund's managers will work closely with teacher and librarian training organisations to produce a programme to tie in with the "national grid for learning". From the end of next year schools, colleges and libraries will be linked to national and local computer networks of learning materials.

The lottery-funded training will concentrate on helping teachers to use the technology in class to enrich teaching and learning and raise standards.

The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) is intended to help talented people develop their potential in creative industries. It should also help turn ideas into products or services; and boost awareness of the arts, science and technology.

The endowment will be supported by donations of cash, royalties or rights; intellectual property rights; and successful artists giving their time.

Mr Smith emphasised that the Government was not breaching the principle of "additionality" in that lottery money would not replace core spending programmes financed through taxation. And cash would not be diverted from the other good causes: charities, sport, the arts, heritage and the Millennium Fund.

He said the original forecasts predicted that the five distributing bodies would get Pounds 9 billion during Camelot's seven years in charge of the lottery. However, such was the lottery's success, particularly with the additional Wednesday draw, that it was on course to generate at least Pounds 10bn. So Pounds 1bn could go to the New Opportunities Fund and to establish NESTA while funding for the other causes could be maintained and commitments distributors had already made honoured.

The White Paper also sets out ways of improving the distribution of lottery money - a constant source of discontent among applicants - and reforming the system for operating the lottery to ensure maximum return to good causes and lowering profit margins.

Mr Smith said: "We want to ensure that distributing bodies are pro-active, not sitting and waiting for applications to come in."

The Government wanted better co-ordination and co-operation between them.

They should target areas of need and deprivation, take decision- making closer to the grassroots and make the application process more user-friendly.

"I want to see the National Lottery become a true people's lottery, for the many not the few," Mr Smith said.

To this end, a leaflet outlining the Government's proposals will be distributed to libraries and other organisations around the country.

The People's Lottery is available from The Publications Centre, PO Box 276, London SW8 5DT, and booksellers, price Pounds 6.80.

Main points of the White Paper

* a New Opportunities Fund is created as a sixth good cause for initiatives to improve education, health and environment;

* a National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, NESTA, will be established to foster talent and creativity;

* lottery distributors will be encouraged to develop strategies based on needs; to give priority to health, education, environment and deprived areas; l applications for lottery money will be simplified;l competitive tendering for a new lottery operator to meet the criteria of ability to maximise returns to good causes, value for money, efficiency and limiting the amount and nature of returns to the operator, including directors.

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