The Observer reported yesterday that an independent study
by the LSE and the Institute for Social and Economic Research challenges the coalition’s claims that the burden of austerity (“We’re in all in it together”) has been equally shared out.
Iain Duncan Smith’s sweeping and punitive changes to welfare benefits and Osborne’s to income tax has resulted in switching from the poorer half of households to most of the richer half, with the poorest 5% in the country in terms of income losing nearly 3% of what they would have earned had Britain’s tax and welfare system of May 2010 been retained. Conversely, the better-off half has gained financially, with an increase of between 1.2% and 2% in their disposable income.
A recent Credit Suisse report
found that Britain is the only G7 country where inequality has grown since the start of the 21st century. All the other member states has seen wealth inequality either remain the same or fall since 2000.
Despite pronouncements and image makeovers, “Equality” isn’t a concept, which sits easily on the shoulders of the Conservative Party. Nicky Morgan, both Minister for Women & Equalities and Education Secretary, voted against gay marriage but has now claimed to have changed her mind, perhaps because her new Equalities portfolio would be incompatible with opposing same sex marriage?
As Education Secretary, Morgan recently advised teenagers
to steer clear of arts subjects and move towards STEM subjects – with the clear message that science and technology are the only viable options for a successful career and that arts learning is going to hold you back and therefore of limited appeal.
This is very dangerous advice because it basically tells young people that creativity, self expression and spirituality have little value in the world and, worse, if you are good at them, want to explore them, or get fulfillment from art, music, drama, design and so on, then, well…perhaps you’re a bit of a loser.
The coalition’s shambolic education “reforms”, borne of free market principles, engineered by Michael Gove and a cabal of shady advisors and now further fulfilled in less confrontational and more voter friendly way by Nicky Morgan, has demonstrably sidelined and devalued the expressive arts in schools. Uptake has decreased, none of the subjects are included in the Ebacc and higher education tuition fees put off many young people from modest backgrounds into applying to music and drama colleges as well as from doing arts subjects at universities.
I wonder how Nicky Morgan reconciles the concept of Equality with that of Education. The DfE recently announced – again – their determination to raise the achievement of disadvantaged children. Research after research has demonstrated that poverty and poor educational outcomes are related, yet this government and the preceding Labour one introduced more and more punitive and divisive educational policies while failing – or perhaps willfully neglecting – the issue of child poverty and income inequality. Countries like Finland have proved that, in closing the inequality gap, educational attainment soars.
I wonder also how Morgan can explain how private schools have traditionally put arts subjects at the heart of their curriculum whilst she is happy to lecture teenagers, the vast majority of whom go to state schools, that music, art, design and drama are going to hold them back.
No wonder the face of the acting profession is dominated by privately educated actors and our music colleges hugely under representing state school musicians. It makes you wonder whether it suits that section of the financially, socially and culturally advantaged to want to keep the glories of the arts to themselves and the rest can just get a job and become a wage slave to the free market.
So, if students at independent schools enjoy such a rich access to the arts, why – in the name of Equality – should students in state schools not receive the same level of education and enrichment? Within the state sector, provision and resources are haphazard and inconsistent and it’s getting worse. At this calamitous rate, the arts will become the exclusive pleasure of the already advantaged. It is normal in private schools to offer music, creative writing, drama, dance – why is it becoming the exception in state schools?
It should be normal and a right to offer and encourage arts education in all schools because, in denying them, we limit young people’s chance of learning self-expression and achieving personal fulfillment. An education rich in the expressive arts will help significantly in breaking down the barriers which inhibit social mobility and thus make our society more equal and democratic.
Every child should experience the joy of playing an instrument, of singing in a choir. Here they learn about self-discipline, practice, and teamwork.
Acting gives children confidence to speak out and express themselves publicly and in different ways. This is a great skill in any career and in any industry.
Visual art in universal. It helps teaches every child how history has evolved and has been documented in a visual way. It helps them to understand architecture and the world they live in.
Dance, as well as being healthy exercise, opens the door to self-expression and physical discipline as well as an understanding of the way cultures and civilizations have been expressed in dance and movement.
An education rich in expressive arts should not be a privilege for the few but a priority for all. Going to school cannot just be about hitting government exam targets. Educational success should not just be calculated on the number of level of GCSE and A Level passes – this completely misunderstands the point of education. A rounded education equally rich in the arts as well as in the STEM subjects not only turns out more rounded, happy and curious students but is the passport to the social mobility which governments claim they want to achieve but whose policies do the exact opposite.