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The Arts in the UK Schools

The arts in the UK schools are traditionally strong. Many of the leading British artists said that they cannot imagine their success without compulsory art classes and much less the country establishing itself as one of the leading centres of arts and culture in the world. But the cuts in cultural education and the new education reform that foresees measuring performance only in the so-called “academic” subjects is feared to push the arts in UK schools on the margin. And the latest research suggests that these fears are justified.

In 2011 when the new performance indicator – the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) was first introduced, nearly one half of the UK schools increased the time dedicated to the “academic” subjects and cut the time for “less important” ones. The trend continued in 2012, mostly on the expense of the arts.

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Why the Arts in Schools are So Important

The arts enable the kids and young people to learn the arts and about the arts including skills for careers. But they also give them a variety of skills that play an important role in other subjects as well. Unlike “academic” subjects, the arts force the kids to use their imagination and originality rather than simply follow the “rules” and facts. This encourages critical thinking, improves communication skills and enables them to express themselves in both verbal and non-verbal way.

The research has shown that kids whose curriculum is well balanced between the arts and “academic” subjects achieve better academic results than those who learn mainly “academic” disciplines. This suggests that without quality art education, the kids lack certain skills that play the key role in academic performance and overall success in later life.

The Solution

The Cultural Learning Alliance and a number of the UK’s artists who are respected both on the national and international level called the Government to reconsider its education reform. They argue that it excludes the arts as one of the core subjects and as a result, the schools will eventually withdraw the arts from their curricula.

They see a solution in expansion of the EBacc from five to six subjects which would alongside math, science, English, foreign languages and humanity also include the arts or at least make the GCSE level mandatory. Darren Henley, managing director of Classic FM who was asked to review cultural education also called for development of a national plan for cultural education which would reduce the gap between the schools and enable all kids and young people an access to quality cultural education and an opportunity to experience the arts.