... and for art and sport

Billy Elliot and Harry Potter are having a benign effect on the arts: among 34 new specialist arts and sports schools, Wildern school in Southampton plans to train boys in ballet and tap; and children's fiction has its own glitzy TV event in the Blue Peter book awards to be held in November for the second year running.

More money is being invested in music with the latest award from the National Foundation for Youth Music for a new programme called Youth Music Action Zones. Six areas around the country will benefit from the pound;10 million scheme to provide music workshops.

Two initiatives by the Arts Council are getting underway: the Artsmark Award, sister to the Sportsmark scheme, will recognise, promote and disseminate good practice in arts education; and The Creative Arts Partnerships programme will encourage arts organisations to work more closely with the education sector: a potentially exciting idea and worth monitoring.

Watch out for the latest interpretation of A Midsummer Night's Dream as film-maker Christine Edzard of Little Dorrit fame has been working with south London children on her new film to be released next year.

The National Student Drama Festival in Scarborough at Easter will be revamped to encourage more schools to take part. And we can look forward to the annual treat of the Schools Proms in November, preceded by Music for Youth's Summer Festival at London's south bank in July.

World Book Day, on March 1, offers the usual vouchers through schools to coax children into the book-buying habit. But this year's theme of Get Caught Reading could be fun as it aims to encourage adults to fit in a chapter somewhere unexpected: perhaps a naughty bit f a paperback hidden in departmental agendas?

On the serious textbook side, publishers are ready with new titles for the huge changes to the curriculum; but will schools be able to afford them? Two years ago the Government earmarked pound;140 million of grants to support literacy. Now schools need extra help for funding literacy and numeracy at key stage 3.

Moreover, the introduction of new GCSE specifications in September, the revised A-level system and the new citizenship curriculum will need more funding.

For teachers with cash in hand, the Education Show in Birmingham in March will be a good place to browse through some 100 new publications. And keep an eye on the controversy over the BBC's proposed digital curriculum with its promise of free materials funded through the licence fee as it will be strongly contested, mainly by the Educational Publishers' Council.

Meanwhile, in sport, ministers are expected to announce a tightening of the rules on the sale of playing fields. Sports organisations complain that, despite Government pledges, they are still being sold, usually for housing or supermarket development to the detriment of the nation's well-being.

In support, the Common's select committee on health will publish a report early in the new year emphasising the link between youth and school sport and children's welfare.

In April, schools will find out where the pound;750m announced by Tony Blair at the Labour party conference will be spent. Although much of the recent investment has been targeted at specialist sports colleges and after-school clubs, sporting bodies are hoping that the new year will see a greater emphasis on sport in the curriculum.


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