Arts in schools: luxury or necessity?

Saturday 19 October, 10.30am until 12.00pm, Frobisher 1-3 School Fights

Following fierce opposition to the omission of compulsory arts education from the proposed Ebacc, the new qualification has been scrapped, apparently saving the arts in the school curriculum. But nonetheless a survey of more than 2,500 teachers shows the amount of time devoted to art has been slashed by 16 per cent on average. Another survey found 50% of art and design teachers reported a drop in the numbers of children studying the subject, and cuts to budgets. So regardless of the Ebacc row, how can we best inspire children to study arts subjects? Is Tracey Emin right that unless they are compulsory, arts subjects will ‘fall by the wayside’? Do the arts have a place in the official curriculum at all, or might they thrive more in an extra-curricular, free space?

Behind the headline debates lie an ambiguity about what art education is. Is it basically about fine art and music, or also drama, dance and design & technology? Should the emphasis be creative expression or critical appreciation? Initiation into a tradition or the acquisition of skills like drawing or reading music? Are the arts disciplines comparable to other school subjects such as English, maths, sciences, foreign languages, history or geography? Or are they better understood as life-enriching or character-building activities, supporting children’s emotional and moral development? If so, what if you don’t like art? Does it mean your morals and emotions are ‘less educated’? What role should the arts have in schools?

Susan M Coles
president, National Society for Education in Art and Design; arts creativity and educational consultant

Leslie Cunliffe
honorary research fellow, Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter

Dr Wendy Earle
impact development officer, Birkbeck, University of London; convenor, Academy of Ideas Arts and Society Forum

Emma Ridgway
curator, creative learning, Barbican Centre

Alka Sehgal Cuthbert
educator, writer, doctoral researcher

Produced by
Alka Sehgal Cuthbert educator, writer, doctoral researcher
Recommended readings
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Grayson Perry, BBC Radio 4, 15 October 2013


An independent review by Darren Henley for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Education

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In defence of the humanities: Why this Government is wrong to scorn an arts education

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Sophie Coulombeau, Independent, 30 April 2013

Gove’s changes threaten Britain’s greatest asset: our creativity

As part of his quest for greater academic rigour, the Education Secretary plans to remove all arts subjects except English from the top tier of his Ebacc

Roger Mavity, Independent, 28 January 2013

Tracey Emin's art lesson for Gove won't spark a riot

Emin's campaign to protect art lessons from the education secretary's plans seems narrow and unthinking – the entire system needs an overhaul

Jonathan Jones, Guardian, 22 January 2013

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