Arts must be secure in curriculum, argues leading head

Art lesson Arts teachers are being encouraged to speak out about the need for cultural education

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Cultural education should have a secure and significant place in the curriculum in England, a leading head teacher will argue on Saturday.

Bernice McCabe, of North London Collegiate School, will say the arts are crucial to a rounded education,

Ms McCabe's comments follow plans to leave arts subjects out of the English baccalaureate for 16-year-olds.

"The future status of your subjects is uncertain," she will tell an audience of arts and music teachers.

"I am convinced that education in art and music is a crucial element in the curricular entitlement of every child," Ms McCabe will say in a speech to the Prince's Teaching Institute (PTI).

She will encourage a weekend seminar on arts education to consider: "Why should we teach creative arts, what should we teach and how should we teach it?"

'Speak now'

"We are in the middle of a lively and important curricular debate... if you speak now your voice will be heard and it may be influential."

Concerns have been raised about the future of cultural education in schools after the government announced plans for the English baccalaureate which will be taught in schools from 2015.

The new qualification will initially be in three core subject areas - English, maths and sciences - but will later be widened to include a language and either history or geography, but no arts subjects.

Start Quote

We teachers have a prime role as champions of this country's cultural heritage and I see it as our moral duty to pass this on to younger generations”

End Quote Bernice McCabe

Eminent figures in the arts world have voiced fears that Britain's creative economy could be destroyed within a generation if arts subjects are left out of the new qualification as schools might no longer want to put resources into teaching them.

Supporters of the change say students will be able to elect to study the arts as "option subjects".

Ms McCabe, course director of the PTI, will say that all that is guaranteed for arts subjects at the moment is that they will continue to be compulsory up to the end of primary school.

"I know that vibrant art and music teaching and extra-curricular enrichment are essential for the rounded education I want every child to experience. As a professional, I do not need any government to tell me that," Ms McCabe will say.

She will point out that industries related to the creative arts currently employ over two million people in the UK and that the arts are an expanding sector in the global market.

"China for instance is investing huge amounts in new art and design colleges and technologically advanced countries like Japan and Sweden retain art in the core curriculum throughout the years of compulsory schooling."

She will argue that "all children should have a profound experience of the arts in terms of cultural history and their own practical experience" and that teachers "should ensure there is as much... rigour in these subjects as, say, the sciences".

"We teachers have a prime role as champions of this country's cultural heritage and I see it as our moral duty to pass this on to younger generations."

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "The English Baccalaureate does not prevent any school from offering GCSEs in art and design, music, dance and drama. We have been clear that pupils should take the GCSEs that are right for them.

"We are spending £15m over the next three years to ensure that every child has access to the arts."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    If Mr Gradgrind didn't already exist, the Tories have just invented him. What a sad collection of bean counters they are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Teaching 'culture' comes naturally to humans. Why else do we sing to our babies, read to them, teach them nursery rhymes, cover the walls of their rooms in attractive pictures?

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    In multicultural Britain, which culture(s)?

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    The UK is known for it's creative sector which currently represents just over 5% of all employment. Much of this creativity is seeded in schools.
    Don't let Gove sterilise our education system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Only a handful of people make a decent living from the arts, but they are essential if we are to become rounded human beings capable of enjoying life, rather than simple robots making money for our masters.

  • Comment number 13.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    This is it BBC, this is the Saturday topic, Mods want to watch the football or something.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Apparently the Government thinks culture is for the wealthy few whilst the masses should be content to be naught but functional slave-employees serving their masters, who in turn serve Mammon. I have believed for many years that Westminster is a major threat to our civilisation. I can scarcely recall the last time I heard an MP say something meaningful. They sound like brass bells - hollow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    There is no real art without craftsmanship. Artistry is but one facet of good craftsmen. Trying to pretend rubbish work is artistic as an excuse, is an admission of failure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I'm all for a bit of culture but lets concentrate on getting all our children literate and numerate first, and then worry about the arts later.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    I was always very good at maths and science but terrible at art and music.

    Some people however will be the opposite from me, and treating the creative subjects as something less than maths and sciences is unfair. Kids should be able to do the things they enjoy and are good at.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    1st consideration,'What is education for?' EXAMS?
    2nd If music and art are not part of the core will they still be timetabled?
    3rd Technology can cover areas of these subjects as well as being used in other subjects and as discreet subjects IT,DT, etc. All areas of employment now use or need development using technology.
    So is enough importance being given toTechnology? (not in my opinion)

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Arts education supports the sciences - which need creative thinkers.

    It engenders social skills (co-operation, negotiation/respect for opinions).

    It develops concentration & focus in ways that other subjects do not (not least because of the different motivations at play)

    It supports the development of hand-eye co-ordination, aural discrimination, fine motor skills

    Need I go on?

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    So they're pressing ahead with this ridiculous baccalaureate idea. The curriculum it demands is far too rigid, it does not allow for student individuality and will no doubt cause uproar with its high failure rates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Over recent years, The Arts has done itself no favours.

    Degrees in Media Studies are seen as a standing joke; and studying soap operas is not a real arts subject.

    Arts needs to reverse the dumbing down of itself, because otherwise it just looks like a laughing stock.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Other than a basic requirement for reasonable spoken and written English, I don't believe that children should be brainwashed into accepting the establishment version of history - they will encounter the elitist, class-ridden society that GB is today, soon enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    The arts, like the sciences, should be a central pillar of education. However, art is not just about studying, art is something you do. The Government may think art is irrelevant, giving young people soul to distract them from their function as employees. However, even they must acknowledge that industry needs more creative people. Creativity should be the core of education.

  • Comment number 1.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?


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