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 58.


    What separates us from animals?

    Do animals laugh at Basil Fawlty, or wonder at the Sistine Chapel?
    Do they thrill to classical and pop music?
    We can be irrational.

    I think a better question would be "do they have any form of humour or wonder?". Science, and critical thinking, teach us to ask the right questions.

    BTW, we are animals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Art and Culture are two separate things, which perhaps shows the breadth of our educational deficiency. Making Latin part of the curriculum must be the dumbest move ever and clearly demonstrates Gove's irresponsibility as Education Minister.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Gove hankers after a mythical 'education' of swotting and jolly hard exams in 'proper' subjects. He has no evidence to support the changes he's making, relying instead on his arrogant idea that rote and regurgitation are good for children. 'Hard Times' satirises such nonsense. Gove probably cannot see that unwise people, such as he is, are the targets of the satire.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    The problem here is about what art really is - making music requires dedication and practice and understanding of basic mathematical concepts not just plonking a few notes together and saying it is a tune.. Creative skills include woodworking and technical design but 'artists' look down on 'crafts' these days. Leonardo da Vinci could actually draw!

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    I know a chap who is very good at maths and english yet has no cultural or artistic appreciation of anything and as a result comes across as a bit of a moron. Good luck with society of thats the sort of person you want to fill the country with. Education should be about producing complete, rounded individuals not robots for industry.

  • Comment number 53.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    An overcrowded curriculum needs to concentrate on what the economy needs.(you did not think it was for individual development did you?) Arts have been secondary subjects for ever. Latin was dropped but Gove wants it restored( for nostalgic reasons?) so something else has to give. Technology is a necessity but not in the core.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Ms McCabe's comments follow plans to leave arts subjects out of the English baccalaureate for 16-year-olds.
    English baccalaureate is an oxymoron, its another EU diktat we could well do without.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Countless studies have shown that children involved in music do better in maths classes; we need to save the arts. Also, why is history not a core subject? Even now my undergraduates don't know basic facts--last year several were surprised to learn that England and France had been at war 200 years ago--I can't bear to think they're going to get worse. All children deserve a good education!

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    How many of you actually make things for yourself anymore? You are consumers these days not creators. Once all children made models sewed etc. had craft art hobbies. Seems that is virtually gone now. Even fewer adults do anything well as a hobby. All schools do is create a lump of children who all think they are designers from no experience of the making side, for an easy skilless life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    I thought we were crying out for creative people here to get the economy moving .
    Children just like adults need enrichment to grow in all areas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Perhaps we are looking at this the wrong way perhaps it is a deliberate attempt to keep us plebs ignorant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    The art of War would or is apt bbc.Or did i imagine the NEWS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Welcome to the Machine ...

    We want only to create humans that perform. Critical thinking and analysis do not lubricate the wheels of the economy. We want machines, not people.

    It is unfortunate that we can only be perceived in terms of commodity by those that blindly seek and acquire power.

  • Comment number 44.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Beauty comes from within, it cannot be taught. If I like a piece of music or a picture, I like it, don't waste time and money telling me why I like it.
    Next someone will say Media Studies need to be int he BACC

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Remember Mr Gradgrind, anybody? Nuff said.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    I remember having to choose my subjects back in 1981 and you had to choose the core subjects of Maths English, Geography, History and one or two science subjects. Only then did I have the option to pick Art and Technical Drawing. As a Designer I see the importance of having an understanding of the arts and culture but too many children leave school with poor english and maths skills.

  • Comment number 40.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    24 EBlue

    Yes, creativity is crucial to science too. As a scientist and computer programmer who is also an artist I have come to understand that art and science go together very well. Science with art is stronger than science alone. Creativity is critical to both. Art is one of the best ways to develop transferable creative skills. I dare not imagine a world without art and artistic meaning.


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