Pupils promised ‘quality culture’
February 13, 2008
Schoolchildren in England are being promised high-quality cultural activities in and out of school and the chance to pursue creative careers.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families says each child will have access to “at least five hours of high-quality culture per week”. There is to be a particular focus on “those who would otherwise miss out”. Teachers’ unions applauded the aims but said there were practical difficulties and queries over who would pay. There are to be £25m pilot schemes in 10 areas – with local authorities invited to bid to take part – involving visits to top theatre shows, galleries and museums. Other options in the “Find Your Talent” scheme include acting, singing and learning a musical instrument or making a film.
Children’s Secretary Ed Balls and Culture Secretary Andy Burnham launched this aspect of the recently-announced Children’s Plan at the Young Vic Theatre, in south London. Mr Balls said: “All children and young people should have the chance to experience top quality culture – whether that is seeing a play or dance performance, learning a musical instrument or producing some creative writing…Many of us remember the first ever live music we heard or the first ever performance we saw…I want all young people to have the chance to experience and take part in creative activities to help them learn and develop.”
The children’s department says culture enriches their lives. “This programme will give them the opportunity to learn in and about culture, developing as critical spectators, participants and creators of the cultural world around them…They will learn through culture using engagement with the arts and other activities to boost attainment, other skills and personal development.” Mr Burnham said it would be up to schools to work out the fine details of the scheme…Some of this could be delivered in the school day, but also we want to give young people the opportunity to do more out of the school day…The idea of the scheme we’re putting forward is very much for schools and local authorities to come forward with their plans of how they would deliver it.”
A DCSF spokeswoman stressed that schools were not being expected to squeeze this into the curriculum. “Schools are not on their own – the whole point of these pilots is that they will involve local musicians, theatres, galleries and other arts organisations in working with children…We are providing extra funding to make this a reality on the ground and the point of running pilots is precisely to work out the most effective way of helping more children to experience more cultural activities without creating extra work for schools.” The government is spending £110m over three years on “creative partnerships” between schools and outside organisations, more on supporting museums’ education activities and £332m to support choirs, orchestras, and free music lessons.
‘Depth and quality’
Under the new cultural programme, children will be given the chance to attend “top quality theatre and dance performances, world class exhibitions, galleries, museums and heritage sites”. They will also be encouraged to take part themselves. More will have the chance to learn a musical instrument, play and sing in groups and choirs, perform drama or make films. The plan says the government will ensure that those who show particular talents in an area will have chances to develop them. The promise is “depth and quality”, not just access to something or one-off activities.
The general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, Mick Brookes, said there were practical difficulties. “There’ll be thousands of Year 6 children – 10 or 11-year-olds – going to school today to rehearse for their Sats [national curriculum tests] in May,” he said. “Now, I think it would be much better to have a day doing poetry, listening to music and having those cultural experiences but the government needs to free schools up from the constrictures that they’ve put on them at the moment.”