How important is arts education in secondary schools?

According to a report by the Education Policy Institute (EPI), the proportion of pupils taking arts subjects such as Fine Art, Drama and Music have fallen to their lowest levels in a decade. The report, which was published last month, states that around 19,000 fewer pupils took arts subjects at Key Stage 4 last year, compared to 2014.

EPI senior researcher Becky Johnes said: “This recent

drop in arts entries is driven by several factors, including changes to the way school performance is measure

d such as EBacc or Progress 8, financial pressures on schools, and, of course, local decisions taken by school leaders.”

The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) and Progress 8 concentrate on a limited band of subjects including Maths, English, History, Geography, Science and foreign languages such as French. Critics claim this narrow focus is squeezing arts subjects out of schools.

Why does this matter?

At the start of last year, the government published figures showing the UK’s creative industries were worth £84.1bn per year to the economy.

The former Minister for Culture Ed Vaizey said: “The creative industries are one of the UK’s greatest success stories, with British musicians, artists, fashion brands and films immediately recognisable in nations across the globe. Growing at almost twice the rate of the wider economy and worth a staggering £84bn a year, our creative industries are well and truly thriving and we are determined to ensure its continued growth and success”.

Proponents of the arts also point to wider benefits than jobs and contributions to the economy.

The Cultural Learning Alliance, a prominent campaign group, said a generation of young people faced being “intellectually poorer, emotionally more limited, and socially more isolated”. They also pointed to a statistic suggesting that students from low-income families who take part in arts activities at school are three times more likely to go on to university.

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