What’s the future of the arts in schools?
As the revised curriculum is published a recent report looks at how schools are engaging with the arts.
Following a high-profile campaign and an extensive review period, the new curriculum framework for England was announced last week.
The first draft of the curriculum proposed by the government was widely challenged by arts audiences and institutions alike, with changes to drama, dance and design technology criticized as marginalizing arts-based subjects.
The new revised curriculum has generally been regarded as an improvement on earlier drafts– drama is now mentioned in the statutory part of the document, albeit briefly. But there are still concerns about the absence of film and dance. There are also worries about the falling number of pupils taking arts-based GCSEs: they dropped by 14% between 2010 and 2013. Some have argued that this is due to the introduction of the EBacc school accountability measure. Clearly there is cause for concern and so we and the nine other Bridge organizations -commissioned a series of regional reports to investigate the changing relationship between schools and cultural education across the country.
We spoke to schools and arts organizations across Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Essex and North Kent to explore barriers and opportunities they face daily with cultural education. Among other conclusions the report found that:
- Even the most enthusiastic schools are, on the whole, reactive in terms of cultural engagement.
- Secondary schools make fewer visits to cultural organizations than primary schools. They’re also less likely to incorporate arts-based learning into the wider curriculum.
- Key barriers to cultural engagement included a lack of time to arrange activities, funds and specialist expertise. Another barrier was a lack of status for arts-based subjects.
These findings in turn led to a number of recommendations to improve the provision and status for arts-based subjects:
- ‘Cultural champion’ schools need to support other schools and communication should be improved.
- The arts sector must engage in more vocational education for 14-19-year-olds. Expertise and best practice should be shared across the arts, from film and performance to museums and galleries.
- When inspired, young people can act as cultural ambassadors among their peers.
In short, there is a vital role for Bridge organizations in engaging with schools, supporting them and brokering relationships with cultural organizations. If we don’t support our young people in developing an appreciation of the arts they will be missing out on a key element of their education.
What do you think of the recommendations made?