Schools today are facing a seemingly impossible challenge: they must create a broad and balanced curriculum whilst under the pressure of boosting academic performance for exams. When you factor in increasing pupil numbers, reduced teaching staff, and budget cuts, the challenge is enormous.
As a result of the challenges coming from all sides, many schools have reduced teaching hours and provisions for a number of foundation subjects. Amongst these subjects is art.
Art is already at risk in a number of primary and secondary schools, but does this mean that we should eliminate it from the curriculum entirely? There’s divided opinion over the future of one of the most creative subjects in schools…
The Great Debate: Does Art Belong in the Classroom?
There has been considerable support for the teaching of art, both from parents and the government. One survey conducted in America revealed that 94% of parents thought that art education was important for the intellectual development of children. The UK government has also expressed the great importance of teaching art education, and their commitment to ensuring the entitlement of children to enriching arts education.
Studies into art education have greatly supported art and explored the vast range of benefits that it has for academic and social development in children. Research has shown that the arts can encourage independent learning, cooperation, and creative expression, amongst many other benefits.
Between the commitment of the government to create an excellent arts programme in schools and the extensive research into the benefits of art education, it seems that art is a skill that belongs in the classroom. However, this is only half of the picture.
Art has a lot of support, but not as much as other subjects. In the 2018 YouGov poll into subject importance, the core subjects and computing were clear winners. Only 16% of respondents viewed art as very important, less than a fifth of the number who said the same for English and maths. Art and design came 13th in the list of 18 topics, with music and drama, two other areas of the arts, ranking lower.
Despite government claims that art is important, recent changes, like the Progress 8 performance measurement, are thought to be partly to blame for the reduction in art entries at GCSE level.
Will Art Survive in Schools?
Whilst not entirely bleak, the future of art in the classroom does look uncertain. The number of students taking art at GCSE level is the lowest in 10 years. This is due to many factors, such as the financial burden of art provisions and new performance measures for schools that value core subjects ahead of many creative subjects.
The great value of art is widely recognised by students, parents, and teachers, but in comparison to the core subjects, it’s often not viewed as a priority. Going into the future, this could mean that art is absent from the classroom altogether.
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