Arts deserve a central place in the curriculum

Monday, September 9, 2019

Michael Rosen (Let the music in: why schools need a new deal for the arts, 2 September) presents a refreshing case for us to reframe our ideas about the school curriculum to accommodate learning in the arts for its intrinsic value. But he is well used to swimming against the tide.

Like me, Rosen is old enough to remember the publication of the Gulbenkian Foundation report The Arts in Schools (1982). It was a splendid initiative, an articulate, informed response to the feared marginalisation of the arts in schools by the Thatcher government. In the national curriculum, introduced in 1988, “important” subjects (excluding the arts) were give privileged “core” status. More recently the government has vigorously promoted science, technology, engineering and maths at the expense of the arts.

Nearly 40 years after the publication of The Arts in Schools, arts educators find themselves in an even darker, more arid and more depressing educational landscape. This is why the voices of those like Rosen need to be more widely heard and why the Guardian’s continued commitment to facilitating a debate on this issue is vital. The arts offer a powerful means through which all children and young people can make sense of experience. This isn’t a difficult concept to understand or support – unless the fostering of creative ways of thinking and doing isn’t what the government thinks schools are in business for.

Roy Prentice

Michael Rosen is quite right to attack the influence of former education secretary Michael Gove on the teaching of arts subjects in school. This country has achieved world renown in the last 50 years or so as a result of artistic and musical achievements. Deep involvement in the arts enriches people’s lives and their relationships to one another.

All this has nothing to do with “units of sellable labour power” and competition in the global labour market. The UK boasts composers, performers, painters, sculptors, dancers and choreographers, actors and directors of international standing. Young upcoming figures in the same fields need every bit of support and encouragement to uphold this tradition.

Meirion Bowen

Thank you, Michael Rosen, for your succinct article about the need for creative arts subjects to play a central part in the school curriculum. As always there is a need for all students to develop their imagination and skills in different environments.

I was lucky enough to be an art teacher in a Leicestershire upper school in the late 70s and 80s. All students were required to take an art and design subject to GCSE level. Music and drama were also popular subjects, leading pupils to possible membership of the then thriving county orchestra and drama opportunities. General studies was also a well-supported, compulsory A-level subject.

I feel it is very important for young people to broaden their minds while developing imagination and problem-solving approaches to everything they do.

Rowena Dawson
Kegworth, Leicestershire

Michael Rosen’s article on the arts in schools reminded me of a training day session with a government adviser who told us that our teaching must always be driven by objectives and that those objectives must be measurable.

I asked him what I should measure when my objective was to help children appreciate poetry. “You’ve got to find something to measure,” he said.

Jim Johnson

A new deal for the arts would be welcome. It may surprise readers to learn that a drama GCSE now requires 70% written assessment and only 30% practical performance. Arts subjects have a reputation for being a soft option. Actually, many arts courses require a wider skills base than many other subjects.

Niall Whitehead
Hastings, East Sussex

Source: The Guardian