I think we can all be forgiven for feeling that arts education is seen as the poor relation of every other school based curriculum subject.
In this country the government is once again pushing forward on what it calls an ‘England Baccalaureate’. Details have still to be published but the Conservative Party election manifesto states that: ‘We will require secondary school pupils to take GCSEs in English, maths, science, a language and and history and geography, with Ofsted unable to award its highest ratings to schools that refuse to teach these core subjects’.
It is the last statement that sends a chill down every educationalist concerned for the future of arts education.
Of course the government will argue that this still leaves plenty of curriculum time for art subjects but the reality has to be seen against a backdrop of declining numbers of students taking ‘arts’ GCSE and A levels and a very real decline in the number of ‘arts’ teachers in schools.
I am very aware of schools in Warwickshire that have moved from a music department of two to a music department of one teacher and a corresponding reduction in music teaching.
My sister used to work three days a week as an art specialist in a local secondary school. The school has chosen to increase the curriculum time dedicated to the core subjects in anticipation of the move to the English Baccalaureate. This inevitably means a reduction in the amount of time dedicated to art subjects.
The school is contractually obliged to offer my sister 3 days of teaching, so they have offered her 2 days of art teaching and one day of English and Maths; for which she has never been trained. Unsurprisingly my sister felt that this was not in her best interests and certainly not in the best interests of the students and has reluctantly accepted a new contract for 2 days teaching a week.
The Incorporated Society of Musicians ( ISM ) is my professional body and they are constantly advocating for better music and arts provision in schools. Their Bacc for the Future campaign is gathering momentum and support from organisations such as Shakespeare’s Globe, The Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA) the Music Industries Association (MIA). Directors UK, the Design Council, The University of the Arts London (UAL and the choir Schools’ Association.
To get involved with the campaign please visit http://www.baccforthefuture.com and sign the vital petition. You can also tell your friends, family and colleagues about the campaign and spread the word on social media using the hashtag baccforthefuture.