DfE defends itself against Tate’s criticism of arts funding for schools

Janet Downs's picture

Yesterday, the Tate group asked the new government to provide  sufficient funding for an ‘arts-rich curriculum’.

 ‘Access to the visual arts in this country must not depend on social and economic advantage. Private schools place a premium on a rich cultural education for their pupils while many state schools are starved of the resources to support access to culture and creativity for their pupils.’

A Department for Education spokesperson responded in a short press release:

 We will have provided £500 million to music and the arts between 2016 and 2020, making it the second highest funded element of the curriculum behind PE.

It is disingenuous of the DfE to compare music and arts funding with money for PE.  The latter goes directly to primary schools via the PE and sport premium.  Primary schools are held accountable for the way they spend this money. 

Funding allocated specifically for music and arts does not go directly to schools.  It goes mainly towards Music Hubs.  121 have been rolled out so far across England.  But the government has been accused of ‘dropping the ball’ on its current National Plan for Music Education, due for renewal next year.   The funding which the DfE crowed about in its press release runs out next year and no further funding has been announced after 2020.

Where, then, does this leave the other creative subjects, art, drama and design/technology?  The DfE says:

The proportion of young people taking at least one arts GCSE since 2010 has remained broadly stable, with a small increase between 2018 and 2019.’

That’s it – just one arts GCSE is deemed sufficient against at least five academic subjects.   This means most pupils will drop all but one creative subject at age 14 – earlier if the school has adopted a three-year key stage four.

School funding is insufficient across the board, not just for creative subjects.  Arts organisations such as the Tate are plugging the gaps.  But they can only do so much.  The arts are an integral and necessary part of the curriculum.  They should be adequately supported.

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