Arts can raise education standards, says Welsh report

Review says schools should not see arts as a luxury
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Geraldine Kendall Adams
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The Arts Council of Wales (ACW) has published an independent review showing how the arts can be used to drive up overall standards of education in schools.

Published this week, the Arts in Education in the Schools of Wales report is the first in-depth survey of the relationship between the arts and education sectors in the nation.

The report found that arts organisations are finding it increasingly difficult to persuade schools to take their work because of costs, lack of time and the fact that many schools saw arts as “a low priority, non-essential, or a luxury”.

The report states: “The current, and very necessary, emphasis on literacy and numeracy is narrowing the focus of schools and limiting the opportunities for young people to engage in creative practice that can – ironically - lead to improved standards in these areas.”

The document reviewed current arts provision in schools across Wales and found that services varied widely from area to area.

It also revealed significantly different levels of engagement within school system itself, with ACW’s revenue funded arts organisations providing 73% of their activities to primary schools and just 23% to secondary schools.

The report has put forward a number of recommendations for the Welsh Government based on its findings.

These include formally stating the central role for arts education in schools and highlighting creativity as a core skill; using the arts to improve numeracy and literacy and close attainment gaps; and supporting “arts champions” in schools as part of a national plan for creative learning.

The report also highlighted concerns about a shortfall of experienced arts teachers in schools and has advocated that ACW should work with education practitioners to develop a new framework for arts-related professional development.

Weaknesses in communication and low levels of awareness among schools are cited as further barriers to effective take up, and the report has recommended creating a web portal to provide schools with detailed information on arts services.

ACW chair Dai Smith said the report showed that “schools need to be supported in taking up and delivering more imaginative approaches to cross-curricular creative activity”.

The education minister for Wales, Huw Lewis, said: “"We will now take time to consider the report in detail alongside our wider review of the curriculum as a whole and will also look at how we can enhance joint working between our arts and education sectors in Wales."


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