Celebrating the arts

Far from taking a despondent view (TESS, August 2) of arts provision and practice in our response to the national debate, the Scottish Arts Council warmly applauds the many examples of excellent arts education practice observable all over Scotland.

There are dedicated and committed teachers, supportive directors of education, first class outreach work from arts organisations, and goodwill and enthusiasm for the arts in and out of school in so many areas, and the Scottish Arts Council celebrates all of these.

Initiatives such as the cultural co-ordinators pilot, which we have been charged with taking forward, are indeed very welcome steps in the right direction.

Many of our own programmes, such as the Creative Links project, have made a discernable difference to the profile and provision of the arts in local authority areas. This project has been particularly successful, so much so that we will be offering partnership funding to directors of education in all local authorities over the next five years to establish arts education posts.

The problem is that good examples are exactly that - they are not core to every child's school experience. There is still a perception, highlighted in our response, that arts are "non-academic" and therefore less vital to the educational experience than other 'academic' subjects. Within education there still seems to be a body of opinion that writing about art has more educational credibility than making art.

We would point to an ever-growing body of research evidencing the positive effects and effectiveness of arts within education , their cognitive potential for individual development, both as subjects in their own right, and as useful conduits to understanding other subject areas.

Scotland is a vibrant and thriving nation, culturally. It would be a great pity if we did not seize the opportunity to make the educational arts experience one of genuinely high quality, accessible to all. We are not "looking a gift horse in the mouth". What we want to see is the horse alive and kicking and running well ahead of the field.

Sylvia Dow Head of education Scottish Arts Council

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