Teacher survey shows school visits to museums are falling - Museums Association

Teacher survey shows school visits to museums are falling

Curriculum changes marginalise art, craft and design
Profile image for Geraldine Kendall Adams
Geraldine Kendall Adams
Schools in England are cutting visits to museums and galleries due to changes to the curriculum, according to a report by the National Society for Education in Art and Design (NSEAD).

The NSEAD report combines the findings of two surveys on arts education focused on the period 2011-14, one on the impact of performance measures introduced for the new English Baccalaureate (EBacc) on the art, craft and design curriculum, and the other on the value and visibility of those subjects in schools and colleges.

The NSEAD’s report revealed that at key stages 3 and 4 (pupils aged 11-16), EBacc performance measures that marginalise the arts have cut pupil choice in those subjects and reduced learning opportunities to engage with the arts through museum and gallery visits.

The report showed a growing divide in the attitude to creative subjects in state and independent schools. Just half of teachers from state schools said their school supported pupils to engage with artworks first-hand by visiting museums, galleries and creative practitioners, while 86% of respondents in the independent sector said their school supported such visits.

The report also showed that budget cuts have hit arts departments in schools, with fewer specialist staff being trained in art and design and reduced lesson time for those subjects.

Respondents said that in some cases pupils are unable to study more than one creative subject due to timetable clashes, while in other schools they are now being charged for art materials.

Respondents said that higher-ability pupils arriving at secondary school are being discouraged from taking creative subjects, even if they show a particular interest or aptitude for the subject.

NSEAD general secretary Lesley Butterworth said: “The conclusions of this survey are as unsurprising as they are unwelcome and provide a critical benchmark within the continuum of our work on behalf of our community and in our advocacy for and defence of art, craft and design education.”

Ronan Brindley, head of learning at Manchester Art Gallery, said the findings reflected schools' engagement at his museum and others.

Brindley said: “Primary school visits are relatively healthy but we’re definitely having to work harder to get secondary schools in. The schools that traditionally warmed to us are still there but the more marginalised ones are taking more time and resources to connect to.”

Brindley said the range of arts activities being sought by schools had also narrowed. “Activities more in demand tend to be drawing and painting – there is less of a core design offer than we used to have.

“I find the curriculum changes regarding design slightly odd because lobbying groups are always saying that modern employers are looking for people with good design and creative ability. There’s a disconnect between that and the current direction the curriculum is taking.”

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