Arts and the curriculum

IT is hardly surprising that one of the features of the national educational debate is that special interest groups have indulged in special pleading. The Scottish Arts Council is no exception: as might have been expected, it believes the arts are important and the arts in schools of prime importance (page three).

The council is right to point to the many deficiencies in the delivery of the arts in the school curriculum - the dearth of provision in many places, the inadequacy of the visiting teacher service and the weaknesses of initial training. We would support, too, its wider observations about the narrow basis on which pupils are tested which implicitly ignores the qualities the arts can foster.

But the council is altogether too despondent. For the first time, we have a set of goals for education in which creativity features prominently as one of the national educational priorities. There is, as the council acknowledges, a steady growth in the take-up of arts subjects. Specialist units have been set up beyond the central belt. Cultural co-ordinators are being funded to work in schools. And, above all, there is a growing acceptance that drama, dance and music have a crucial role to play in promoting everything from pupils' self-confidence to their attainment (the two being, of course, related).

The last point, admittedly, may be seen by purists as a rather utilitarian view of the arts - a positive development in its way but a vehicle to produce other benefits, not something which values the arts for their own sake. Perhaps so, but one thing can lead to another - and, in any case, it is unwise to look gift horses in the mouth.

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