Strictly's Darcey Bussell backs report calling for arts education to be protected

Taking part in the arts boosts children's academic achievement and social skills, says report

Helen Ward

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Darcey Bussell, president of the Royal Academy of Dance and a judge on Strictly Come Dancing, will be speaking up for the arts in schools at an event in London today.

The ballerina is due to speak at the launch of a new report in the House of Commons, alongside poet Caleb Femi and actor Fiona Shaw, who is known for playing Petunia Dursley in the Harry Potter films, among many other roles.

She was due to say: "When celebrities like Ed Balls leave Strictly, they all say that dance has changed their lives for the better….this should not be restricted to a lucky few, but made available to every child by injecting it directly into our school system."

She added that she would like to see "physical literacy" taught four times a week and for dance to be a central part of that.

The event was held to launch an updated "Imagination Nation" report from the Cultural Learning Alliance, an umbrella group of more than 11,000 individuals and organisations. 

More than 60 people from the worlds of art, dance, music and education have backed the report, including the artist Grayson Perry, outgoing director of the Tate Sir Nicholas Serota and the children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield.

The report includes 10 key findings, based on research evidence, showing that taking part in arts subjects can help children to improve both their academic and social skills, as well as helping young people to express their own ideas.

'Arts should be a right, not a privilege'

“This is a wake-up call,” said Lord Puttnam, chair of the alliance. “It is essential that access to arts is a right and not a privilege. There has been a decline in the number of children taking part in arts subjects in schools, a reduction in arts teaching hours, and fewer arts teachers employed in schools in England.

"We are calling for everyone to work together to ensure more commitment, more focus and more action to protect and expand the arts curriculum in schools.”

The key findings include:

  • Students from low-income families who take part in arts activities at school are three times more likely to get a degree;
  • Children who take part in arts activities in the home during their early years are ahead in reading and maths at age 9;
  • Young offenders who take part in arts activities are 18 per cent less likely to reoffend.

The report comes after the Education Endowment Foundation and the Royal Society of Arts announced earlier this month that they were setting up a new fund to test the effect of cultural trips on attainment.

This followed concerns that the government’s drive to make the English Baccalaurate compulsory for the vast majority of pupils was devaluing the arts. A survey by the National Society for Education in Art and Design last year found that 56 per cent of art teachers said the changes had led to teachers wanting to leave.

The original "Imagination Nation" report was published in 2011. The updated report was due to be launched at an event at the House of Commons today.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "We want all pupils to have access to an excellent, well-rounded education. We know that music and the arts can transform lives and introduce young people to a huge range of opportunities. There is no evidence that since the introduction of the EBacc, arts entries have decreased.

"We have also recently announced that we’re investing more than £300 million over the next four years to get more young people involved in music and the arts, ensuring opportunities are open to all, not just the privileged few."

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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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