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Society seeks arts for all

A three-year programme to raise the profile of the arts has been launched by the Royal Society of Arts.

The society's initiative follows the Government's report Setting the scene: the arts and young people, which was published last month. The programme includes lectures on the theme "The arts matter" and research into the value of the subjects to schools and business.

Virginia Bottomley, the National Heritage Secretary, will give the first lecture on October 14. At the report's launch, she said: "My aim is to spark an interest in, and enjoyment of, the arts as early in a child's life as possible, then nurture that throughout the child's educational career."

The RSA believes that the arts are as important and necessary as the sciences and deserve an equal place in the curriculum. It published a report last year that highlighted the deterioration of the expressive arts in schools as a result of the national curriculum and local management. That report, Guaranteeing an entitlement to the arts in schools, called for pupils to study one or more arts subjects at key stage 4, inspection of arts in schools and improvements in teacher training.

The RSA research is expected to be carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research.

The NFER says there is a considerable weight of opinion that asserts the aesthetic, personal, social and economic value of education in the arts "but limited empirical evidence available to substantiate claims about the outcomes of arts education and their relation to the processes associated with arts teaching and provision".

The research will include case studies of schools and will ask employers for their views about job applicants from arts backgrounds compared with others.

The RSA is also planning to stage an international seminar next year to share research findings with European and American experts. The NFER's paper notes that a well-publicised study of 1,200 Swiss children aged 7-15 showed that those who had extra music lessons made better progress in language and social skills than those who had not.

Tickets to the lectures are free, but booking is essential. Details from Veronique Renard, Royal Society of Arts, 8 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6EZ.

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