Arts must be 'protected'

23rd April 1999 at 01:00
THE curriculum needs a major overhaul to safeguard arts in the school timetable, a Government committee will conclude next month.

The official task group on creative and cultural education is set to report that arts and humanities must be given the same status as "core" subjects such as maths and English if they are to survive.

Schools are under mounting pressure to spend time on politically-sensitive basic skills and subjects judged to be economically useful, such as science and technology.

The creativity committee is said to believe that the status of the arts has diminished, thanks in part to the structure of the curriculum, which judges them peripheral, "non-core" topics.

From September, primaries have been allowed to cut back on the arts and humanities to concentrate on literacy and numeracy - a move which has provoked fury from the arts world. The arts have also suffered in teacher-training institutions, according to research from the Royal Society of Arts.

The 60 recommendations in a 70,000-word document will include proposals to review the balance between the core and foundation subjects and a change in the length of the key stages.

The committee, composed of a variety of people from the arts, science, education, entertainment and industry, was set up by the departments of education and culture in January last year. The long-awaited report was due for publication last autumn.

Earlier this month, the committee was rocked by the sudden resignation of the poet Benjamin Zephaniah who claimed that Education Secretary David Blunkett had interfered with the report.

These allegations were strongly denied by committee chair Professor Ken Robinson, professor of arts education at Warwick University, who told The TES that Mr Zephaniah attended only two of the 30 meetings and events organised by the committee. "I very much regret his decision to go," he added.

A Midsummer Night's Dream director answers critics, and play review, page 26, Friday

THE CULTURE CLUB

Committee members include: conductor Sir Simon Rattle; Lord Stone, chief executive of Mamp;S; Sir Harry Kroto, the Noble prize-winning chemist; Professor Susan Greenfield, specialist in brain studies; Jude Kelly, director of the West Yorkshire Playhouse; comedians Dawn French and Lenny Henry; Dame Tamsyn Imison, head of Hampstead School; Eric Bolton, former schools chief inspector, and Sir Claus Moser, chairman of the Basic Skills Agency.

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