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Disappearing arts need protection

YOUR correspondent Helen Coll has reason to be concerned about the level of arts experience that trainee primary teachers are likely to receive (TES, Letters, November 1). Last year the proportion of specialist places in primary training for music and art fell by 20 per cent and 14 per cent respectively.

In the light of the new standards and requirements, I am currently updating the 1998 GulbenkianRoyal Society of Arts report on the state of the arts in teacher training. That report documented how providers were abandoning arts specialisms, cutting hours and access to vital resources.

Four years preliminary findings show that, with specialisms now optional, some postgraduate certificate in education providers are continuing to walk away from arts specialisms and replace them with more modest taster courses with markedly varying hours.

Some providers have further reduced coverage of the arts overall; others increased it - but none to anywhere near the levels that existed four years ago.

One encouraging finding is the determination of many providers to maintain the arts in primary training, tempered only by their doubts about how long they can continue to win the argument that the arts matter.

Since both the Office for Standards in Education and the Teacher Training Agency also now agree that the arts are important, providers say they would welcome greater support and direction on how to sustain the arts. The full updated report will be available later this year.

Rick Rogers

74 Belsize Park Gardens

Hampstead

London NW3

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