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Arts lessons cut due to government focus on English and maths

Half of schools say that arts provision in their school has been cut due to the government’s focus on "core subjects", according to a new poll.

A survey of 172 heads of department and teachers by the National Society for Education in Art and Design (NSEAD)  found that in 52 per cent of secondary schools, the introduction of the English Baccalaureate had affected timetabling for art, design and craft subjects.

Comments from teachers taking part in the survey revealed that in some schools pupils in high ability sets for academic subjects were unable to take art as a GCSE option.

The new Progress 8 measure, which comes in for all schools from 2016, gives credit for progress students have made since primary school based on their scores in eight subjects which can include up to three arts subjects.

But 44 per cent of schools surveyed said that this would also have a negative impact on art options. One respondent said that because the measure gives double weighting to English and maths, slots had been taken away from other subjects to provide more teaching time for these.

The survey also discovered a stark contrast between the state and independent sector. While a third of state schools now have less time allocated for learning in key stage 4, only 8 per cent of independent schools had seen lesson time cut.

And while 57 per cent of the independent schools replying said art and design was valued, just 32 per cent of state school respondents agreed.

Sophie Leach, assistant general secretary of NSEAD, discussed the findings at a meeting of arts organisations in the House of Commons. She said: “What this shows is that these policies have impacted significantly on a third and up to a half of schools.

“Performance measures that exclude or marginalise art and design are impacting on key stage 3 and 4 provision. A significant number of specialists in posts rarely or never receive training and opportunities for pupils to work with creative practitioners or visit galleries and museums have been reduced.”

Headteacher Peter Nutkins, of Humphrey Perkins School in Loughborough, is a member of Heads for the Arts, a group of headteachers who are campaigning for arts qualifications to be a core entitlement and included in the EBac.

He said: “The two main things that would help are: for Ofsted to insist on a broad and balanced curriculum, it’s in there, but watered down and to have the arts explicitly included in the key performance indicators such as Progress 8.

“A lot of headteachers are under immense pressure and if you are on the brink of closing because Ofsted say your results are bad, you are going to focus on what they are measuring.”

Artist Bob and Roberta Smith, who was also at the meeting, said afterwards: “This survey is really important because it’s about actually talking to people who are on the ground in the classrooms and they are telling us very loudly that all is not well in arts education, particularly at key stage 4.”

 

Related stories:

The fourth R - October 2012

Resources: Art and design teaching 

An art-free EBac is not the end of the world  - March 2013

 

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