Creative spark must burn again

14th May 1999 at 01:00
Culture committee calls for a halt to the 10-year downgrading of arts in the national curriculum. Diane Spencer reports

The country's creative and cultural gurus have called for a major re-structuring of the national curriculum to ensure parity for arts and humanities.

In a wide-ranging and lengthy report, the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education says the distinction between core and foundation subjects should be removed, key stage 3 reduced to two years and key stage 4 increased to three.

The committee, including comedians Dawn French and Lenny Henry and conductor Sir Simon Rattle, says there is a need for a new balance in education as arts and humanities have been downgraded over the past 10 years.

"There is no clear evidence that the current distinction between core and foundation subjects has increased the number and quality of our young science students or the level of scientific awareness of the general population."

Science education has vital roles in meeting the challenges of the future, but it will not fulfil them in isolation, says the 235-page report.

"We see no basis for distinguishing in value between sciences, arts, humanities and physical education. The economy needs scientists and technologists with a broad understanding of cultural and social processes, and lawyers and civil servants with a good understanding of science," it says.

The committee, chaired by Ken Robinson, professor of arts education at Warwick University, said boys in particular found the curriculum boring by the end of key stage 3.

External assessment at the end of two years would "increase motivation and achievement".

Extending key stage 4 to three years would give more time to consolidate basic skills, provide more activities for gifted students and give students more opportunities for creative pursuits.

Professor Robinson said in his introduction to the report: "No education system can be world-class without valuing and integrating creativity in teaching and learning, in the curriculum, in management and leadership and without linking this to promoting knowledge and understanding of cultural change and diversity."

The report says schools should develop partnerships with museums, sports and arts organisations, youth and community groups and businesses.

"Schools need no longer be the sole traders in education. Many people can contribute from different fields of expertise. We see these partnerships not as luxuries but as essential to the kind of education all young people now need."

Governing bodies should designate a member to be responsible for encouraging these links and to oversee the school's creative and cultural programme.

All our futures: creativity, culture and education, the report of the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education, will be available on the Internet (www.dfee.gov.uk) from today. It will be published next month.

RECOMMENDATIONS

* Urgent action to remedy the decline in arts and humanities specialisms in teacher training;

* National programme of in-service training for artists, scientists and other creative professionals to work in partnership with education;

* A national system of music services to provide peripatetic teaching on equal rates with discounts for families on low incomes;

* Tax incentives for businesses to provide expertise or funds to develop creative and cultural education.

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