The case for the arts;Cross-phase;Reviews;General

26th June 1998 at 01:00
THE ARTS INSPECTED: good teaching in art, dance, drama, music. By OFSTED Heinemann pound;14.99

The Arts Inspected adds to a small but significant collection of government documents supporting education in the arts. For those struggling to make the voice of the arts heard above the clatter of preparation for hours of literacy and numeracy, a publication which sustains the case for art, dance, drama and music so cogently and which bears (presumably) the imprimatur of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools is most welcome.

For their material, Chris Woodhead's inspectors took a closer look at a sample of schools where Office for Standards in Education reports had recorded good arts teaching. They are an eclectic mix - art at the William Tyndale primary school in Islingon, north London, drama at the independent secondary school Roedean, Brighton - and represent all ages. Thus we see Year 6 pupils from a former mining village on a residential art visit, a school where 80 per cent of young dancers achieve A or A* grades in GCSE dance, and a community college where more than 250 pupils participate in extra-curricular music activities from wind bands to African drumming.

Although the text sometimes succumbs to the anaesthetising language of the OFSTED report so that it is not always possible to sense fully the artistry of what is described, this is more than compensated for by the clarity of layout and the thoughtful use of evidence.

I am tempted to believe that The Arts Inspected is indicative of a growing consensus that the arts apartheid enshrined in the 1988 Education Act may at last be dissolving. Here, at least, dance and drama are every bit as prominent as art and music. In the light of recent rumours that the Teacher Training Agency plans to cut the funding of specialist drama courses, it is only to be hoped that the considered balance of this useful volume reaches those parts of the establishment that others seem to have failed to reach.

David Hornbrook is arts inspector for the London borough of Camden

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