Nicky Morgan insists teaching arts is 'essential'
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has hit back at claims the Government has downgraded the teaching of arts in schools, insisting she considered it an essential element of learning and a "matter of social justice".
The exclusion of arts from the core subjects that must be studied at GCSE under the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) system created a storm of protest, with campaigners saying it would lead to it being marginalised in schools.
But Ms Morgan dismissed those concerns as nonsense and said making sure young people were aware of Britain's cultural contribution from Shakespeare to One Direction was " at the heart of our plans to prepare the next generation for life in the modern world".
"A good cultural education is the birthright of every child," she said, ahead of a speech to the Creative Industries Federation in which she is expected to defend the approach.
"Without an appreciation of the vast cultural contribution that our nation has made to the wider world simply it is not possible to understand what it means to be British.
"That is why we are putting a high quality cultural education, alongside a strong academic core, at the heart of our plans to prepare the next generation for life in the modern world."
She is due to tell the Federation: "If you were to force me to identify one thing that would leave a child's understanding of Britishness incomplete - it would be an appreciation of the vast cultural contribution that our nation has made to the wider world.
"Because from Purcell to Shakespeare, St Paul's Cathedral to the Angel of the North, from the Beatles to Banksy to One Direction, this small island county has, throughout its history, punched well above its weight as the cultural capital of the world.
"And without that understanding of our cultural contribution, without an inspiring and eye-opening cultural education, it is impossible to truly understand what being British means and to appreciate the ties that bind us.
"I believe access to cultural education is a matter of social justice. And for too long those who've had access to the best opportunities the arts have to offer, have been those young people with parents with the ability to pay.
"That cannot be right. So I've made broadening access and opportunities to the arts a priority for my Department. So we've invested £460 million in cultural education projects that complement what's happening in the classroom.
"I want every single young person to have the opportunity to discover how the arts can enrich their lives as well. I believe access to cultural education is a matter of social justice.
"I firmly reject any suggestion that I or this Government think that arts subjects are in anyway less important or less worthy than other subjects for study in school. On the contrary a young person's education cannot be complete unless it includes the arts."