RSC and Tate call for arts education changes

Published: 17 October 2018
Reporter: Steve Orme

Time to listen: students have their say Credit: Royal Shakespeare Company

A research project commissioned by Arts Council England which involved schools and teachers who work with either the Royal Shakespeare Company or Tate has outlined the “overwhelmingly positive” benefits of arts and cultural education on the lives of young people.

The research, undertaken by the School of Education at the University of Nottingham, has led to calls for change because thousands of young people and teachers expressed concern over the impact that declining arts and cultural provision in schools will have on future generations.

Time to Listen shows what students say about the value of arts and cultural education. Researchers gathered 6,000 responses from students aged between 11 and 18 and their teachers over three years.

More than a third of the students said school was the only opportunity they had to engage in arts activities.

Erica Whyman, the RSC’s deputy artistic director, said, “the strong, consistent and thoughtful message from the young people in this study is that arts and cultural subjects are uniquely important in equipping them for both academic and employment success.

“If we want this generation to have the key skills required to thrive in the workplace of the future, we need to listen to them now.”

Maria Balshaw, director of Tate added, “we can’t overstate the case for an arts and cultural education for all. Arts subjects must be at the core of education provision in the UK in our schools, be they state-funded or independent, and in our universities.

“We must listen to the reverberating sound of the 6,000 voices that are part of this important piece of research and act now. Otherwise, we will be failing the children and students who are the creative future of the UK.”

In response to the research Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, commented, “we all have a role to play in securing high-quality access to the arts and culture for young people.

“This research tells us how valuable arts subjects and experiences are for students in schools—but it also tells us they are under significant threat. I call on vice-chancellors across the country to play our part in securing the future of arts subjects in schools and universities by ensuring they are appropriately valued in our institutions.

“I ask Russell Group universities to review their approach to facilitating subjects and ensure we aren't inadvertently telling young people that choosing arts subjects at A-Level will close down their options.”

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