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Art and music give way to God

Inside the cramped art room at Salvador Dali's old school sit 36 hugely absorbed 12-year-olds. Their teacher, Pilar Solana, has screwed up a piece of paper, opened it out, and made photocopies. The children are colouring in what images they can visualise in the criss-cross of lines.

"It's an exercise to stimulate their imagination," says Solana. These children at Ramon Muntaner - Spain's oldest state school, situated in the Catalan city of Figueres, where Dali was born and buried - are happily unaware that this is likely to be the last year in which they study art.

Last month Pilar del Castillo, minister for education and culture, proudly announced the launch of festivities planned for Dali's centenary on May 11 next year. But the latest measure in the raft of reforms introduced by Del Castillo is to significantly cut art and music classes, largely to allow more time for religious education.

Currently Spanish schoolchildren enjoy two hours a week of art and music in primary schools, and two hours a week in the first three years of secondary school. The new system, to be implemented next year, will see the hours dedicated to art and music in primaries cut by half, and in secondaries by up to 75 per cent.

"Art classes are of prime importance to instil in students the ability to discern between popular and higher forms of culture," says Solana."These reforms will make us a country of cultural illiterates."

In the rest of the country, the changes will definitely take place. But in Catalonia, the government has some power over education, and can veto the legislation.

However the (centre-right) CiU has just been narrowly voted back in as the largest party, but has yet to decide on a coaltion partner, let alone a common education policy. They have just a month to make an objection.

"The cuts will have profound effects on the livelihoods of the teachers, who will be moved to different subjects or different schools," said Jotxim Godoy, president of the Catalonia teachers organisation attempting to reverse the reforms.

Salvador Dali would certainly have suffered from Del Castillo's reforms.

The artist's school reports from the Ramon Muntaner reveal that he was an unexceptional student in every subject - except art.

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