Are the arts being squeezed out of the school curriculum?

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Education of the whole person is the aspiration of every parent and teacher, but where should the balance be between those subjects directly related to employability and the more expressive subjects? In some schools the emphasis is swinging decisively against subjects such as drama, art, dance and music but does that match the future of employment opportunities in a global market and is it in the best interests of young people?

recent report  by the University of Warwick into the future of Culture and Creativity in Britain highlights the importance of creativity for the development of the whole person and especially to the importance of the creative arts in our future economy. It proposes that, far from being opposed to each other, creativity and employability are two sides of the same coin.

Some estimates suggest that graduate employment will rise in the Cultural and Creative Industries to 67% by 2020,  states the report which is should be of substantial interest and great concern to parents and teacher, when compared to what is happening to the creative curriculum in many schools.

With the double weighting given to core subjects in the assessment of school achievement it seems unlikely that the trend away from creativity in the curriculum will be reversed. The report found that between 2003 and 2013 there was a 50% drop in GCSE entries for design and technology, 23% for drama and 25% for other craft-related subjects and that, overall, the arts are experiencing a reduction in curriculum time and in specialist teachers. This will eventually lead to a decrease in the pool of future applicants into the arts, especially those pupils who are from lower income backgrounds where concerns about employability are often greatest. 

Clearly then what happens at home matters even more in this shifting context. As well as encouraging numeracy and literacy it is also important to find ways to support families in the arts music, art and design, dance, drama and film. Access to musuems is often free and libraries are available to all. In order to breakdown the barriers to entry, one way forward is to make the holiday homework linked to a visit to a free exhibition in a local museum or other site. The school building could be offered to host free taster sessions in story-telling, the arts and crafts, singing, music making and dance. There are many funding opportunities for these types of activities. Click on the link for some examples Heritage lottery funding and Arts Council projects offer schools a range of creative opportunities that remove the barriers of low income. Click here for current Arts Council projects.

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