Arts education in the media
Over the past month there has been a wide range of media coverage on the decline of the arts in schools, and the value to children and young people of participating in the arts. High-level advocates, including the Prince of Wales, Meera Syal, Lenny Henry and Andrew Lloyd Webber, have called for work to reverse the decline.
Decline of arts in schools
At the end of August the TES highlighted how arts subjects have been squeezed out of the curriculum, stating ‘Less time is being spent teaching music, art and drama in secondary schools than in 2011, while an increasing number of hours are being devoted to core subjects, research shows.’ Building on our arts teaching hours research, the TES reported:
‘At key stage 3, less time is being spent teaching music (down by 11 per cent), art (down by 9 per cent) and drama (down by 7 per cent), compared with 2011. While at key stage 4, music is down 12 per cent, art is down 20 per cent and drama is down 26 per cent.’
Access to arts
Writing in Arts Professional Pauline Tambling charted the decline in arts teachers and involvement by teachers from across subjects in providing arts experiences, as accountability and funding cuts bite:
‘… with the focus on performance tables, the EBacc and year-on-year reductions in education budgets, and with schools and colleges struggling to fund even the basics. We have in all but the most courageous of state schools already lost the time when teachers from across the school provided a bedrock of ongoing opportunities for all young people to make art, perform, be creative and contribute to the wider culture in the school.’
Tambling closes by asking the key question: as access to the arts declines in schools how will children who cannot afford to pay for it outside of school carrying on participating – or in her own words: ‘How are working class young people going to access the arts if they don’t experience them in school?’
Value of arts
Making the case for why children need access to the arts Darren Henley, CEO of Arts Council England wrote in the TES on 24 August about the importance of studying the arts to build cultural literacy:
‘Although these references seem obvious to us, at some point everybody needs to be told what they are, and to ensure that every child is literate in this way that needs to happen in schools. Without this sort of education, children lack a connection to our shared cultural history. This is a key component of citizenship, one which gives us a sense of having a stake in society.’
Henley also touched on the importance of teaching children to create for their own wellbeing as well as employability:
‘Equally as important as learning about the arts, however, is learning how to use the arts; how to create rather than only to consume what others have created. This should be one of the core components of every child’s education, not just those whose families have an economic or geographical advantage.’
Children and the Arts, the Royal Albert Hall and Prince's Teaching Institute Roundtable
On 5 September Prince Charles attended a roundtable and reception at the Royal Albert Hall, organised at his request by his charities Children and the Arts, and the Prince’s Teaching Institute, to celebrate and consider the role of the arts in schools. Further discussions are planned with the Department for Education.
Roundtable delegates discussed ways in which arts subjects could be boosted in schools. It was attended by Schools Minister Nick Gibb as well as the Secretary of State and Minister from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and a host of arts and education figures, including representatives from the Association of School and College Leaders, Ofsted, ACE, various arts organisations, the CLA, and several headteachers.
The Guardian reported that Benedict Cumberbatch, Vivienne Westwood, Lenny Henry, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Zoe Wanamaker and Meera Syal attended the reception afterwards which included speeches and performances.
Rosie Millard, the chief executive of Children and the Arts wrote about the event in The Times (may be paywalled) and you can also read the TES coverage, which includes a quote from our very own Sam Cairns, and watch the ITV news at Ten coverage of the day.
On the same day as the Roundtable, Labour’s Tom Watson released a statement announcing: ‘As soon as Labour is in government we will put it right by putting creativity and arts back at the heart of children’s education’.
Special measures to Good
Finally, the BBC highlighted the role of the arts in bringing a Feversham Primary school in Bradford out of special measures to achieve an Ofsted ‘Good’, in their case study published on 19 September.
House of Lords: Baroness Deborah Bull’s Maiden speech
Baroness Bull, late of Kings College London Cultural Institute and the Royal Opera House (and now Vice President & Vice-Principal for King’s College London), made her maiden speech in the House of Lords on 6 September, speaking about the importance of careers advice and a creative education to the future of all children.
She highlighted the issue of the Gatsby Benchmarks for careers education prioritising STEM subjects above others, and made the case for the importance of arts subjects in children’s education:
‘Too often, creativity is seen as the preserve of artists –of people like me – but it is as important to the scientist or the engineer as it is to the musician and the dancer. The world’s most pressing challenges will never be addressed by technology alone, but when creativity is employed to imagine how machines can best serve human needs, the results can change the world. It is notable, and no coincidence, that many of our leading tech entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley CEOs are graduates, not of science and maths but of arts and humanities. All the evidence shows that arts-based learning is key to developing the creativity that drives innovation.’
New Civil Society Strategy highlights value of cultural experiences
Back in August the DCMS launched their Civil Society Strategy: building a future that works for everyone which contains commitments to working with young people, and of course includes a large range of arts and cultural organisations in the civil society footprint.
The Strategy looks at the ways in which the government will help to grow our civil society, which they define as ‘individuals and organisations when they act with the primary purpose of creating social value, independent of state control’. Social value is defined as ‘enriched lives and a fairer society for all’.
The Strategy has actions against what are defined as the five foundations of social value: people, places, the social sector, the private sector, and the public sector.
Of particular interest in the people strand of work is activity to support young people to play a stronger role in civil society. DCMS will work with the Department for Education on proposals and the strategy commits £90 million to a new youth initiative ‘to help the most disadvantaged young people transition into work.’
The Strategy also commits to a number of actions that will impact on arts and cultural organisations including convening ‘a cross government group to work with civil society to establish the principles of effective involvement in the policymaking process’ and supporting better understanding of what charities can campaign for. This has been a problem in the past, for example around campaigning linked to Brexit, as charities were not clear how publicly they could adopt a position due to their charitable status and government or Arts Council England grants that prohibit campaigning and lobbying.
Excitingly the Strategy commits DCMS to using Social Value as a criteria for all contracts they let, not just for services the commission and they will campaign across government for this criteria to be adopted for Departments’ commissioning.
Makerspaces guidance published
Finally if you are interested in setting up a makerspace (defined as a physical location where people gather to co-create, share resources and knowledge, work on projects, network, and build) the Libraries Taskforce have published guidance on Makerspaces in Libraries.
The guidance includes case studies for those interested in setting up their own makerspace as well as useful resources, support organisations and international examples. The report makes a clear link to STEAM and says makerspace ‘activity promotes development of high-end technology skills needed for prosperity and social mobility.’