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Find Your Talent

Volume 475: debated on Monday 12 May 2008

We have received 141 expressions of interest from local areas wanting to take part in Find Your Talent. Of those, 89 were led by local authorities. Together with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, I will shortly announce a programme of 10 pilot schemes that will trial ways to offer children and young people a range of high quality cultural experiences for five hours a week, in and out of school.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. He knows that Plymouth has a strongly developing cultural industry sector, in which there will be many jobs for young people of the future. May I ask him to discuss with colleagues in the Department for Children, Schools and Families a specific feature of the Plymouth bid, “Controlled Explosions”? If the name does not intrigue him, its contents should. Young people often fall by the wayside in their cultural development and the specific feature of the bid is about the way in which we see them through important transitions at various points in their school career to maintain their interest and go on to work in the cultural industries.

Thinking about the weekend’s press, it would have been good if some recent explosions were a little more controlled. However, we will not go into that.

I am intrigued by what has been happening in Plymouth, which has had a creative partnerships scheme. The theatre royal has done some work that is well thought of and has strong support.

More generally, Find Your Talent has genuine potential. The fact that 141 areas engaged in a dialogue with their creative partners to make a bid proves the cynics wrong. A survey of head teachers who are involved in creative partnerships, one of which is in my hon. Friend’s area, shows that 90 per cent. believed that the programme had improved pupils’ confidence and communications skills, and more than 70 per cent. believed that it had led to an improvement in educational attainment. That is the most compelling evidence for what we are doing. The figures speak for themselves and I am tremendously encouraged by the response to Find Your Talent.

Given the importance of the Find Your Talent scheme and the Prime Minister’s particular interest in such issues, may I ask the Secretary of State what consultations and dialogue he has had with the Prime Minister on it?

This scheme is important for the Government: it was at the heart of the children’s plan and our plans to improve sports provision in schools. I speak to the Prime Minister about it regularly. I am confident that the plans that we will soon announce will change completely the level of cultural activity that we make available to our youngest children in school. In doing so, we will open their minds to a range of new possibilities that can only help their personal development and, more importantly, their academic achievements, too. I hope that the hon. Gentleman supports what we are trying to do—he is nodding away—because we cannot be cynical about what is an incredibly positive scheme.