Raising the aim for arts

2nd August 1996 at 01:00
All schools should have a policy for the arts and a governor responsible for implementing it, says a report by the Department of National Heritage published this week - the arts equivalent of Sport: Raising the Game.

In the first major review of the arts in 25 years, the 70-page document sets out nearly 50 proposals for enhancing the arts in schools, ways of using National Lottery funds, and how organisations can collaborate to improve standards and access.

The Government and the Arts Council will be consulting on the feasibility of an Artsmark scheme to recognise good practice in schools, similar to the Sportsmark, announced last week and due to begin in October.

Setting the Scene: the Arts and Young People states that "this document starts from the fundamental principle that good quality arts should be open to all, and that everyone should have the chance to take part in them".

The range and scope of arts in schools, including statutory requirements at key stage 4 and the position of dance and drama, will be looked at again when the national curriculum is reviewed, it says. At present, pupils can drop arts subjects at 14. The department is working with the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority to produce guidance on the cultural dimension of the curriculum, and will hold a joint international conference early next year.

The document says: * all schools should ensure that the arts are given due weight alongside other subjects; * governing bodies may award extra salary points for teachers who give extra-curricular time to the arts; * the DNH will consult on whether schools should be required to include details of policies and expertise in the arts in their prospectuses; * the Office for Standards in Education will give the arts a greater focus and report on provision outside formal lessons; * OFSTED will also report on pupils' involvement in local, regional and national arts activities such as orchestras, choirs, theatre and dance groups and exhibitions; * The department will set up a forum to bring together all those interested in the arts to inform policies and discuss issues of concern; * National Lottery money will be available to set up musical instrument and sheet music libraries, help pupils go to the theatre and concerts, fund artists to work in schools and to encourage professional and voluntary organisations to develop programmes aimed at the young.

The DNH, however, does not suggest that lottery money should replace discretionary awards for dance and drama students. But the report acknowledges the "difficult situation facing those students who are currently unable to obtain even partial grants". It says that ministers will wait for the outcome of an Arts Council inquiry by Clive Priestley, chairman of the London Arts Board, into the state of these awards and the impact of the lottery changes announced last April, which allow revenue funding to develop the skills and talents of young people.

Setting the Scene quotes from a report by the Gulbenkian Foundation published earlier this year, which showed that the number of dance and drama students receiving awards had fallen by 12 per cent since 1994-95, and 28 per cent of local education authorities did not make discretionary awards. Total expenditure on these awards dropped by 41 per cent since 1990.

The DNH report emphasises the contribution the arts make, not only to the quality of life, but also to the economy. "The arts are a booming industry: it is estimated that the performing and contemporary visual arts have an annual turnover of well over Pounds 1 billion." It also highlights examples of good practice throughout the country.

Maggie Semple, director of education and training at the Arts Council, welcomed the report, saying it would help the council's work with young people.

Simon Richey, education director of the Gulbenkian Foundation, was more cautious. He said structural changes were needed. Children should not be free to abandon the arts at 14, while the low status of dance and drama in the curriculum meant there was a diminishing supply of teachers. These issues had to be addressed urgently.

Bob Carstairs, professional officer of the Secondary Heads Association, which published an enquiry into the place of expressive arts in key stage 4 last year, was worried about lottery money causing more inequities.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Employment said the report was produced in close collaboration with the DFEE, and it would complement the recent initiative of establishing specialist arts colleges.

Setting the Scene: The Arts and Young People is available free from the DNH, 2-4 Cockspur Street, London SW1Y 5DH.

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