Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Pupils should study arts 'up to 16'

Children should study the arts up to the age of 16, says a Government-commissioned report

Ministers should consider making pupils study the arts up to the age of 16, amid concerns that cultural education in England is still "patchy", a Government-commissioned report has declared.

It warns that there is a "good deal" of concern about how much the coalition Government values cultural education in schools, adding that this has been partly caused by the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc).

To achieve the EBacc pupils must gain at least a C in English, maths, science, a foreign language and history or geography. However it does not include other arts subjects such as dance, drama, design or music.

In his review of cultural education, Darren Henley suggests including a "sixth group" within the EBacc to cover these subjects. Mr Henley, managing director of Classic FM, was asked to conduct the review by ministers in April last year.

The findings say there "remains a great deal of patchiness in provision of cultural education" across England. It says that while in some places education in the arts is "truly excellent", in others there is a "real dearth of provision" which needs to be addressed to bring standards up to a "universally high level" across the country.

The report later addresses cultural education in the school curriculum, warning that these subjects risk being devalued, and losing funding, if they are removed following the current national curriculum review.

Mr Henley also said: "There is a good deal of concern expressed in much of the evidence that I have received during the course of undertaking this review about the extent to which the coalition Government values cultural education in schools. The introduction of the English Baccalaureate is a significant contributory factor in causing these concerns.

"There is no suggestion in this review that the learning of cultural education subjects should be placed above the need for every single child to become proficient in reading, writing and mathematics."

In its response to Mr Henley's review, the Government insisted that learning about the nation's culture and playing a part in the cultural life of a school and community is "vital" to developing an identity. "Enjoying and participating in cultural life should be available to all children and young people," the Government's response said.

"All children and young people, no matter what their background or family circumstances, should have the opportunity to develop their creativity, their relationship with society and to contribute to the economy in ways that are beneficial to them as individuals and to society."

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