Champions' league for school arts

18th August 2000 at 01:00
THE role of "cultural champions" in schools will not cut across target-setting in basic subjects. The Executive's Creating our Future . . . Minding our Past cultural strategy, published on Wednesday, states: "There is no tension between promoting creativity and promoting attainment."

Rhona Brankin, Deputy Minister for Culture and Sport, says that the teachers selected - whom she calls "champions" but are described in the strategy as "co-ordinators - will have a day a week in which to promote cultural involvement with colleagues and pupils. A pilot scheme in 100 schools, parallel to that for sports co-ordinators, will seek nominations from teachers with a special interest or from the senior management team or learning support teams.

The pound;250,000 project aims to inform other teachers of good practice and of opportunities for pupils to participate in or form an audience for arts activities. Local authorities as well as arts companies, galleries and museums will be expected to enhance their educational role.

Ms Brankin, who says she is "passionately committed" to arts education, believes that developing "soft skills" such as self-confidence through the arts complements work in literacy and numeracy. Social inclusion is important, too:

"Some kids don't have as much access."

The strategy, which states that "creativity is nurtured, not taught", takes a broad definition of culture and rejects ny discrimination in favour of high art. While emphasising Scottish heritage, traditions and languages, it states:

"Culture is not just another word for 'tradition'; to survive it must be dynamic and relevant to life in Scotland today and, most importantly, it needs to look forward and be responsive to national and global changes."

There is implicit criticism of the controversial practice by some local authorities of charging for musical tuition. Pledging to work with the authorities to maximise the opportunities, the strategy adds that tuition should be "free for those unable to pay".

Teacher education institutions are urged to ensure that "the value of culture in the school experience" is promoted to pre-service students and through continuing professional development, the Adult Literacy Task Force can use it to encourage reading, and it should permeate community education. "The youth work sector is very diverse and may deal with vulnerable groups, including offenders, where working through an arts base has a strong track record."

There is to be a feasibility study on whether the New Deal can be extended to a wider range of sports and cultural training and to identify the contribution that Modern Apprenticeships can make. There is support, too, for the growing practice (TESS, July 28) of appointing junior boards for museums and other cultural organisations.

Leader, page 10

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