Secondary Schools: Arts Subjects DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Baroness BerridgeMain Page: Baroness Berridge (Conservative - Life peer)
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My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the £90 million arts pupil premium, promised last year and due to start this September, will go directly to schools? Secondly, does the Minister agree that proposed cuts to HE funding of arts subjects, based on perceived strategic priorities, are misguided? The innovation this Government wish to encourage will not come from STEM subjects alone, but as much from the creative subjects, and that starts in schools.
My Lords, to follow the noble Baroness, arts and creative activity are seen to be a direct enhancer of other subjects. Where is this taken into account when setting targets? If you are to get the best out of this, you will have to make sure that people actively get involved and have opportunities at school. If you do not, you will cut down grades.
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, whereas 85% of independent schools have a school orchestra, only 12% of state schools do? Will the Government ensure that the £76 million provided annually to so-called music hubs is spent more effectively to allow more young people to play classical music together? I declare an interest as chairman of the English Schools’ Orchestra.
My Lords, many secondary schools can provide performing arts education only with the support of specialist external arts teaching practitioners, particularly for dance and drama. Many of these are linked to awarding organisations, validated by the Council for Dance, Drama and Musical Theatre, which offer Ofqual-regulated graded examinations. What plans do the Government have to promote the use of such specialist performing arts teaching by schools, thereby broadening their access to these highly regarded qualifications? How will the education recovery plan ensure that all schools can offer the balanced curriculum that the Government require?
My Lords, as well as lost learning, Covid-19 has had a major effect on the mental health of children. Arts subjects and activities have the potential to reduce stress and anxiety, and are proven to encourage language development in children, particularly the most disadvantaged. Recently, Sir Kevan Collins—I wonder what became of him—said that
“we need to think about the extra hours not only for learning, but for children to be together, to play, to engage in competitive sport, for music, for drama because these are critical areas which have been missed in their development.”
Does the Minister agree and can she explain why the National Tutoring Programme does not apply to creative and practical subjects?
My Lords, the creative industries are facing a challenge in finding young talent to maintain their high profits, which provide over £100 billion to the Treasury. Apart from that, six out of the 10 top skills that secondary students will need for any industry in 2025 are well fostered through the arts subjects and will ensure that they are career-ready in our competitive world. I ask the Minister how the Government are planning to support students today to reach their potential in the world of work in years to come, if creative subjects are not being taught at sufficiently high numbers in schools. I declare an interest as per the register.
My Lords, the Minister referred to the well-being benefits of the arts. She is probably aware of the “HEarts survey” published in the PLOS ONE journal in March, which showed that arts involvement is
“associated with higher levels of well-being and social connectedness”
and lower levels of loneliness. Surely, education in secondary schools is essential to set that up. Given the Government’s avowed attention to build back better, should the £90 million arts pupil premium referred to by the noble Earl not be certain and guaranteed, rather than up in the air? Schools are planning staffing now and staff are planning their future careers—they need to know what is happening.
My Lords, I declare my interest as president of the Independent Schools Association, which is made up of over 550 smaller independent schools serving their local communities up and down the country. Following on from my noble friend Lord Lingfield’s question, have the Government noted that, before the pandemic, state and independent schools were working together in over 1,200 partnership schemes involving either music or drama? With so many pupils having missed out over the last year, is this not the moment for the Government to encourage more state schools to work with their local independent colleagues so that the education system as a whole achieves the maximum benefit of collaboration between the two sectors?