Arts Under Threat

Oliver Hopkins discusses the importance of the arts within schools in the face of continued funding cuts.

Gold Arts Award, Unit 1, Part D.

Arts Under Threat

Imagine a world without the arts.  No music.  No drama.  No film.  Imagine a world where both freedom of expression and freedom of thought were extinct, resulting in such a vacant and mundane society.

     How much longer do you think we need to imagine this for before it becomes a reality?  Cuts to vulnerable sectors of our society have been colossal in recent years and the education sector is now being squeezed more than ever, resulting in so-called 'non-academic' subjects being axed.  More often than not, arts-based subjects like drama, music and art are being grouped under this label and are disappearing from our nation’s schools.  Young people are no longer getting vital exposure to the arts and are being encouraged to have tunnel vision, working like machines with the only setting configured towards gaining a successful career.

     In a recent BBC survey, in which 1,200 schools took part, 9 in every 10 said that they had reduced lesson time, staff or available facilities in at least one creative arts subject.[1] This undeniably has had a ripple effect onto young people’s option choices, with 2018 examination entries for subjects like Performing Arts decreasing as much as 63%[2] at GCSE and decreasing a much as 65%[3] at A Level since 2010.

Without a doubt, the statistics show that the arts are already nearing extinction in our schools and the next generation are not getting as much exposure to the arts as they once would have merely a few years ago.And it’s not just these subjects which are disappearing from the curriculum – extracurricular activities are disappearing, too, further transforming schools into just generators of superbly sparkling and splendiferous straight-A* students.

     But wait a minute.  Pointless subjects such as these just interrupt with academia, right?  Schools are academic institutions after all and subjects like English and Maths have a greater currency in such a competitive global economy!  Surely children’s need for expression and free will which can be discovered through the arts should be nurtured in their free time at home?

     Well, if you think that then maybe you haven’t actually considered that for children from less affluent backgrounds, school is the only environment in which they are able to have access to the arts (whether as part of the curriculum or as an afterschool club). It’s their only opportunity to be taught vital transferable skills and learn key values, like teamwork and self-belief, which our society needs now more than ever.  If you’re suggesting taking the arts away from schools, then we’re going to see a decline in social equality and a divide between those who can afford to experience theatre, music, film and art and those who cannot.

     So who’s to blame for all of this?  It seems that little, if any, attention is paid to the arts at a high level within the education system so clearly this is not an issue which lays solely in the hands of our schools’ head teachers, but instead an issue with our entire education system.  Therefore, it’s not at all surprising that that government officials, particularly the Education Secretary (currently Damian Hinds), as well as the Ofsted Chief have voiced their disagreement with having the arts as a key part of the curriculum – perhaps they too are blind to this societal issue which they are causing.  Although Damian Hinds commendably has stated that qualifications and exams are “not the whole picture”[4] when it comes to education, it really doesn’t explain the funding cuts to the arts in education.  This is the same Damian Hinds, you must note, who has said that “English, maths, science, the humanities and languages” are the “enabling subjects that open up possibilities” and a greater focus should be placed on these.  Which stance do you choose to believe?

     We can’t stand idly by while the arts are being stripped from our country’s schools.  If we won’t promote their value and importance, then who will?  Maybe I exaggerate when I hypothesise about a society where we have no freedom of expression and freedom of thought but how else will our young people be able to voice their views and discover themselves if the arts are wiped out?  The arts make us happier, healthier and promote a better school environment for all and are an integral art of an education system which nurtures personal growth and success.


[1] Jeffreys, B. (2018). Creative subjects being squeezed, schools tell BBC. [online] BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-42862996 [Accessed 1 Nov. 2018].

[2] Cultural Learning Alliance. (2018). Patterns in GCSE and A Level entries 2010 to 2018.

[3] Cultural Learning Alliance. (2018). Patterns in GCSE and A Level entries 2010 to 2018.

[4] Mason, R. (2018). Education secretary focuses on ‘soft skills’ in first big speech.  [online] The Guardian.  Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jan/22/damian-hinds-education-secretary-focuses-soft-skills-first-big-speech [Accessed 1 Nov. 2018].

Author

Oliver Hopkins

Oliver Hopkins

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5 Comments

  • Bee Snellen

    On 21 November 2018, 21:16 Bee Snellen Voice Team commented:

    Love your article Oliver! I wholeheartedly agree that if the arts were cut from the curriculum it would be very detrimental! Just like PE is part of the curriculum to ensure everyone has healthy bodies, the arts should be part to make sure that everyone has healthy minds. As the late Terry Pratchett said "Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can."

    Do you have any ideas on how to promote the benefits of the arts? Should more studies be done about the benefits so that the government is less inclined to cut them?

  • Kat Jones

    On 23 November 2018, 10:46 Kat Jones commented:

    This is such an interesting and thought provoking article. Without regular and valued art lessons in school curriculum creative children are not given the chance to reach their potential. Our future societies will have a job decrease in so many careers as they would not be highlighted to students, such as, Architect, Art therapist, Community Arts Worker, Photographer, Landscape Architect, Costume Designer...etc.

  • Oliver Hopkins

    On 29 November 2018, 20:32 Oliver Hopkins commented:

    Bee, thank you so much for your comment! I definitely agree with you and that quote from Terry Pratchett certainly rings true!

    I think in general, we need to increase awareness of the positive impacts of the arts and counteract the common stereotype that the arts are the "easy option". Studies have been carried out by researchers to find how having the arts as part of the curriculum can lead to academic achievement and the results that I found when researching for this article are somewhat contradictory and there is no conclusive evidence that all of the studies agree on. Instead of this focus on academia and how the arts can contribute to success, I think further research into how young people actually benefit from the arts (whether that be anything from encouraging free thinking or being comfortable with expressing one's ideas) needs to be carried out. In this way, I would hope that more people, including those in government and in schools, would be less inclined to cut arts based subjects.

  • Oliver Hopkins

    On 29 November 2018, 20:34 Oliver Hopkins commented:

    Thank you so much Kat! I certainly agree with you - a vital sector of our economy will become increasingly deprived over time, with fewer and fewer people made aware of the exciting career prospects that they might have otherwise had a taster of if they had experienced arts based subjects at school.

  • Becky Mills

    On 3 December 2018, 12:21 Becky Mills commented:

    A brilliantly written article which really focuses on such an important issue. The arts offer so many skills that just cannot be taught in a traditional classroom for mainstream subjects. You cannot teach imagination, creativity and confidence- to name but a few. The arts are well some students can come alive and grow- which in turn will help them in their other subjects. Some schools do not advocate a career in the arts and the different possibilities widely which is a real shame when thinking of the future of these industries. The arts encompasses so much more than just acting, painting, drawing, playing...etc that should really be more widely known.

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