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History put in pupils' hands

SKETCHES BY Beatrix Potter, dresses by Vivienne Westwood and rare dinosaur fossils are to be brought into the classroom as part of a government initiative to spice up lessons, writes Marie Woolf.

Sculptures, paintings, even mummified remains are also among the artefacts teachers will be able to borrow from museums and galleries under a scheme to be launched this week.

On Wednesday Charles Clarke, the Schools minister, will allocate over pounds 2m to a project encouraging children to take more interest in art and historical artefacts.

The Government is worried that many children, particularly those from inner-city areas, have never visited a gallery and are unlikely to unless introduced to them through school.

Galleries will receive funding to build up "handling collections" so that primary and secondary school children can experience the texture and the smell of historical objects which are usually kept behind glass.