Print this Page
Print this Page

United Kingdom/ 8.3 Arts and cultural education  

8.3.2 Arts in schools

When the Labour Government came to power in 1997, it placed considerable emphasis on educational attainment and improvements in literacy and numeracy and set demanding targets for schools to meet. This put pressure on the curricula and resulted in arts subjects being "squeezed" in the timetable of many schools. This development ran counter to the recommendations to embed culture more firmly on the school curriculum made by the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education in its 1999 report All Our Futures.

Partly to address this and to stimulate creativity in young people, in 2008 the government launched "Find Your Talent", a GBP 24 million programme to give young people the opportunity to encounter high quality cultural experiences for five hours a week, both in and out of school in 10 "pathfinder" areas around the country. The initiative was complemented by further investment in the major Creative Partnerships programme (see chapter 8.3.1). In 2010, the DCMS and DCSF published an interim review of Find Your Talent by SQW Consulting, Ipsos MORI, Karl Ashworth and W. Hadley. The survey revealed generally high levels of participation, with 89% of secondary aged children involved in a cultural activity in the previous seven days, either in school or out of school. Engagement in cinema and literature was highest at 62%, with arts & crafts, and music participation not far behind at 58% each. Older boys and children from ethnic minority groups were least likely to have participated in a cultural activity in the previous week. Qualitative evidence that was gathered suggests the pilots were generating largely positive responses, increased confidence levels, enhanced team working and communication with peers and tutors, improved cultural and generic skills, and better behaviour in class. However, the new government elected in 2010 has indicated that the Find Your Talent programme is to be discontinued. The Creative Partnerships programme is also expected to be very seriously curtailed, and the future of the organisation set up in 2009 to administer it (Creativity, Culture and Education) is in doubt.

The "Schools of Creativity" initiative is a national creative learning programme that is part of the Creative Partnerships programme (see chapter 8.3.1). It started in 2008 with government / Arts Council England funding. Each school receives a grant of GBP 40 000, together with an educational consultant, to help raise educational standards and develop skills that employers need through the stimulation of creative learning processes across the curriculum. More than 50 schools were chosen in the past two years of the programme. The future of the initiative is uncertain because of budgetary cutbacks.

Artsmark is a national award that recognises and rewards schools who show a commitment to the full range of the arts - art and design, music, dance and drama. The award recognises, promotes and spreads good practice on how to provide the arts in education; gives young people more opportunities to access the arts; and encourages schools, arts organisations and artists to work together. Over the last nine years, almost 10 000 schools have been awarded an Artsmark by Arts Council England (

A survey on current practices in music education and the transition between primary and secondary level education was launched in 2010 by Musical Bridges, with financial support from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Following a campaign for improvement in music education developed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and the former Department for Education and Skills in collaboration with a consortium of music organisations, educators, musicians and representatives from the music industry, the government commissioned a review on the situation. The review led by Darren Henley, Managing Director of Classic FM radio station, is expected to report in February 2011 and is likely to indicate that music education in schools is good in parts, but patchy across the country. The report may lead to the creation of a national plan for music education.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport, in conjunction with the Department for Children, Schools and Families and representatives of the built and historic environment has been working to assist in utilising heritage resources to complement the curriculum.

Northern Ireland has one of the youngest populations of any region in Europe (under 16s make up 24% of the population) and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland has established several initiatives to develop participation in the arts and culture among children and young people. One of these initiatives was the The Creative Youth Partnership (CYP), a programme that was delivered in conjunction with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Department of Education and the five educational boards. This programme encouraged thousands of children and young people to make the most of their creative potential, working with artists in schools, youth clubs and community groups. The programme ended in June 2009. Work is underway to develop learning resources for teachers in both informal and formal educational settings

The 5 Nations Arts in Education group, involving the Scottish Arts Council, Arts Council of Wales, Arts Council England and Arts Council of Northern Ireland and An Chomhairle Ealaíon (Irish Arts Council) shares best practice and knowledge in the use of technology in the promotion of arts and creativity through education, engagement with local authorities and skills development.

The publication and broad dissemination of The Art of Learning: Using the Arts to Deliver Curriculum for Excellence by the Scottish Arts Council in 2009 gives practical examples of partnership working across the sectors to support teachers in the delivery of the new Curriculum for Excellence. This builds upon previous work by the Scottish Arts Council, in partnership with the Scottish Executive Education Department (SEED) and seven local authority education departments, which launched "Arts Across the Curriculum" (AAC), a national arts education research project. AAC combines the skills of artists and teachers to inspire learning and bring the curriculum to life. Scottish Ministers for Culture and for Schools and Skills share an interest in working closely together to support the new Curriculum for Excellence.

The Scottish Arts Council and Learning & Teaching Scotland announced an innovative partnership project which will use the schools intranet, Glow, to explore innovative approaches for integrating the arts into education and to develop teaching materials which support the new curriculum.

The Youth Music Initiative (YMI), previously administered by the Scottish Arts Council, was launched in 2003. In the first four years of YMI there was over 700 000 attendances at YMI projects in Scotland's local authorities. It is currently funded at GBP 10 million per annum, 80% of which is routed through Scotland's local authorities to provide one year's free music tuition in schools to all pupils. The remaining 20% is focussed on supporting a range of musical activity provided by voluntary groups and music organisations across the country. By March 2011 GBP 66.9 million will have been invested in music programmes by the Scottish Government.

In December 2010 the new UK Government issued a White Paper on The Importance of Teaching, which provides guidelines for simplifying the curriculum and providing greater autonomy for schools and teachers in England. Emphasis is given to learning English, mathematics, science, a foreign language and history or geography. Relatively little mention is made of arts subjects, though the paper indicates that visits to the theatre, visual arts exhibitions, museums and libraries to enhance education will be supported. Also the paper favours the idea of a flexible curriculum to enable more space in the school day for a range of subjects to be studied.

Chapter published: 15-04-2011

Your Comments on this Chapter?