Last month on Tuesday, 30 January 2018, the BBC ran a report by their Education Correspondent, Branwen Jeffreys, reporting the squeeze currently occurring in many English schools on the creative subjects . Basically, the findings suggest lessons and opportunities for music, art and drama, as well as design and technology are being reduced or even cut. At first I wasn’t particularly surprised by this as when times are economically tough there is a history of various governments talking up so-called ‘work’ skills as they slyly talk down the creative arts. As a consequence of this prevailing attitude hard-pressed schools, with one-eye on the national league tables, actively increase contact time for core subjects at the expense of art, music and drama.
Then I remembered towards the end of last year reading a piece from the Craft’s Council discussing trends in public engagement with the arts in general. I was so impressed with the 77% engagement with the arts and the significant increase in visits to a heritage site, or, to a museum or gallery, that I saved this graphic below. Engagement means actively visiting and presumably spending money at these sites, paying entrance fees and making gift shop purchases. And, that is not to mention all the work generated by creative people to fill galleries, put on shows and concerts, and, contribute to the creative industries such as advertising and media.
Now, being a pedant by nature, I noticed that the data is not particularly recent with results from those surveyed between October 2015 and September 2016. Naturally, I then went on a search for more recent information and visited the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport which commissions the ‘Taking Part’ surveys.
It would appear that this 2015/16 report is the most up to date analysed information available and, to me anyway, paints a fairly positive picture of cultural engagement across England – enough I would say, for the DCMS to be actively and publicly challenging the Department for Education regarding the reported squeeze on Arts Education. In the future museums, galleries, theatres, concert halls and ad agencies, the film industry, computer games companies, etc etc, are still going to need creative people and Arts Education in schools is a vital starting point inspiring, supporting and preparing youngsters for a career in the creative industries.
If you were wondering about the top and bottom pictures. Top is child creatively exploring within a nursery school environment (opportunity still widely available) and the bottom is an adult creatively exploring at an adult education evening class (sadly, opportunity almost non-existent these days if it doesn’t lead to a ‘qualification’).