§ 6. Mr. Phil Hope (Corby)
What contribution his Department is making to the improvement of arts education. 
§ The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Alan Howarth)
Ensuring that everyone has access to high-quality arts education, from pre-school through to lifelong learning, is a key priority for my Department. In addition to initiatives outlined by my right hon. Friend in his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Ms Kelly), we are working closely with partners on a range of policies to deliver that priority, including the Department for 335 Education and Employment's £270 million music standards fund and the £30 million lottery-funded National Foundation for Youth Music. The new artsmark scheme will be made available to all schools in January. The Arts Council of England's arts and education interface projects in Bristol and Corby—I know that my hon. Friend has taken a close interest in that—are developing good practice in arts teaching and learning.
§ Mr. Hope
I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. He will be aware of the excellent work in Corby, through the education action zone, to introduce and expand the arts in poetry, dance and music. A great job is being done. In particular, an Arts Council-funded study is examining the impact of arts education on the broader general development of children in schools—their behaviour, performance and academic standards. Would my hon. Friend take account of the findings in Corby as he rolls out the £40 million programme for introducing arts education in the most deprived areas of the country?
§ Mr. Howarth
We certainly shall take account of the early findings. That project is not due to produce its final report until 2004, but we are anxious to make good, rapid progress with creative partnerships. My hon. Friend is right to remind the House of how involvement in the arts leads to improved motivation; encourages young people to develop skills; and enables them to experience success and achievement that spreads across the range of their activities and curricular requirements. What we shall learn from the experience in the education action zone in Corby will be of prime importance as we develop our policy thinking in this area.
§ Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet)
On arts education funding, could the Minister confirm whether the extra money that I hope will go through the new opportunities fund to arts education replaces the £97 million reduction in the Arts Council grant from the national lottery? Will he consider what many people think are the ludicrous, complicated criteria for applying for arts funding, particularly arts education funding? Surely applications can be made simpler so that more direct decisions can be taken.
§ Mr. Howarth
All in all, taking grant in aid and lottery funding together, we are seeing substantial growth. We believe strongly in the priority that we have given to linking the arts with education, and the creative partnerships programme mentioned earlier by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will make an additional £40 million available for the development of new models of collaboration between the two.
The hon. Gentleman spoke of the complexity of lottery funding application procedures. We agree, and have already gone a long way towards simplifying them.
§ Angela Smith (Basildon)
The Minister will know that not all arts education is school based. There are a number of small local community-based drama groups throughout the country, including La Danse Fantastique in my constituency, which also deals with children with special needs. Such organisations, however, find it difficult to 336 obtain premises. Will my hon. Friend urge county councils and other local authorities to do all they can to secure adequate premises for those groups?
§ Mr. Howarth
My hon. Friend makes an important point. Through the creative partnerships, we shall examine—initially in 12 areas of deprivation—how we can bring about more collaboration between the formal education system and the range of arts and cultural organisations in those areas.