Arts teaching needs more time says RSA

19th May 1995 at 01:00
The Government's educational reforms are hitting the teaching of arts subjects in schools, a report published this week by the Royal Society of Arts claims.

Although the national curriculum promotes pupils' cultural development, there is a growing disparity in the ability of schools to meet the curriculum's minimum requirements. Many more schools are unable to offer pupils a more wide-ranging experience of the arts, the RSA says.

The report calls for an "arts guarantee" for every pupil as they are, in principle, equal in status to other curriculum subjects and should be given the same time and money.

Arts are still popular exam courses for students, but "there is growing evidence of schools allocating insufficient or ineffective space on the timetable" for the subjects, it says.

The report, called Guaranteeing an Entitlement to the Arts in Schools, notes a growing sameness in activities, a decline in the quality of experience for pupils, a fall in the level of in-service training for teachers, a reduction in resources and equipment, enlarged class sizes and an increasing reluctance by schools to take up projects offered by arts companies because of delegated budgets.

Its publication comes two weeks after a conference organised by the National Foundation for Arts Education and sponsored by The TES on the theme of culture, commerce and the curriculum in which Sir John Harvey Jones, Sir David Puttnam and Professor Ken Robinson pleaded eloquently for equality for the arts in education.

Rick Rogers, the author of the report, points to a body of research which shows that:

* local authorities have abolished a third of advisory posts and more than a half of advisory teacher posts;

* less than half of LEAs fund schemes to put artists in schools and only a third support theatre-in-education work;

* half the teachers in craft, design and technology are unqualified;

* music has the highest teacher vacancy and teacher turnover rates of all national curriculum subjects;

* infant pupils spend less than half the time on arts and crafts they did 10 years ago;

* only a quarter of schools require students to follow at least one arts subject at key stage 4

* one-fifth of LEAs no longer award discretionary grants for vocational courses in dance and drama.

To make good an entitlement to the arts, the RSA says, the Department for Education should support teachers' professional development though its Grants for Education Support and Training (GEST) programme, schools should allocate 10 per cent of the timetable at KS4 to the expressive arts and arts agencies should set up funding and investment projects, offering pump-priming money, joint ventures and matching funds.

Margaret Hyde, who chairs the RSA arts advisory group, says lottery money should be used to invest in the nation's future performers, artists and audiences.

Guaranteeing an entitlement to the arts in schools, Rick Rogers, RSA, 8 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6EZ, Pounds 10.

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