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The arts In Schools

Following the seminal 1982 report, a new 40th anniversary report – The Arts in Schools: Foundations for the Future – calls for arts subjects to be central to a rethink of England’s state education system.

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CLA has taken on all the resources produced through The Arts in Schools initiative. The Arts in Schools: Foundations for the Future calls on policymakers to ascribe greater value to the role of the Expressive Arts in schools as part of a rethink of England’s state education system.

The report reflects on policy developments over the four decades since The Arts in Schools: Principles, practice and provision, the influential 1982 Gulbenkian report which helped secure the place of the arts in the National Curriculum, and contributed to the development of a new ecosystem of education teams within cultural organisations. You can see the report summary here, together with a 40-year Timeline.

Based on extensive research, including a series of roundtable discussions chaired by education experts with school leaders, teachers, academics, arts educators and young people, the report finds that the arts are vital for young people’s intellectual and personal development, but are marginalised in today’s school system, which itself requires a major overhaul.

The Arts in Schools initiative has been funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, delivered by A New Direction and was supported by the former Bridge organisation network during 2022/3.

You can access the report and all the project resources here:

Blog series

To mark the publication of The Arts in Schools report, A New Direction commissioned a series of blogs on the report’s themes, and four on specific arts subjects in schools, in partnership with four arts subject associations. Read the blogs here:

Responses to the report

A group of 13 young people from across England share their thoughts on the original Arts in Schools report, their experience of education, and what the future holds for the arts in schools. Young people respond to the report

See some other responses to the report below, including from Dame Alison Peacock (CEO, Chartered College of Teaching) and Geoff Barton (Association of School and College Leaders).

‘We are really keen to see the recommendations of this report become a reality and to make sure that children in schools all over the country have a fair entitlement to engage with the arts, and to be able to engage with artists coming into schools.’

‘This is not about going soft on standards; this is about broadening the whole expectation of what it is that schools can provide. It is alright to have rigorous academic study – that’s fine – but alongside that let’s give all our children an entitlement to express their ideas creatively and to be able to build their expertise and be assessed for that expertise differently.’

‘When we see arts thriving in schools we see happy schools full of youngsters who can’t wait to learn, can’t wait to show their endeavours and we see community projects that thrive. This builds the sense of the art of possible, to work together and collaborate and produce something that might otherwise not happen.’

‘If we could re-adjust the curriculum we could have a new wave or artists, critical thinkers and emotionally-formed school leavers.’

‘Through our collaboration, we have been able to contribute something dear to us – conversation and creation are the essence of art and we couldn’t imagine a more fitting way to have our voices heard in this publication. I am grateful for where my love of the arts has taken me and I am even more grateful that I was able to share my views in such a meaningful way.’

‘We get this divide between independent schools where parents are paying for their child to have a broad and balanced curriculum, and the state sector where schools are struggling to be able to do that. I welcome this report and the fact that it references the arts in schools as it was and says, ‘where are we now?’ Well where we are now is at crisis point.’

‘Is not just about creativity and the liberating inclusivity that the arts provide. It’s also about rigour discipline, repetition – getting things wrong and learning from that. That’s going to make you stronger as a person, it’s going to make you better able to interact with other people and open doors into a world that maybe your background wouldn’t give you. That’s why The Arts in Schools is so important, and this report is something I’m so proud be to be associated with.’

‘If you are a youngster from a background where you will never be taken to the theatre, never go to a dance show, ever see live music, then experiencing that in your school becomes more important and our accountability system and curriculum narrowing appears to be driving that out.’

‘If we are saying that the arts are important, it’s not that we are saying that maths or history aren’t important. I will be a better doctor if I have done GCSE dance or drama – all of these subjects feed into humanity that all our jobs are going to need in the future. Frankly even if our jobs don’t need that in the future, they feed into us as human beings.’

‘Arts subjects are important for personal development, health and wellbeing, for building societal cohesions and contributing to a humane society.’

‘As the Arts in School report states, the arts cannot be disentangled form the debate on the purpose of education and its framework for delivery. We do need a new conversation: our radically changing world needs socially conscious, compassionate, culturally rich citizens – and education remains the key to this.’

Think piece

In May 2022 the report’s authors published an initial think piece to set the context for the consultation and final report, and to consider how the conversation on arts education had developed over four decades. You can access the think piece here.

Call to action

The Arts in Schools: Foundations for the Future calls on policymakers to ascribe greater value to the role of the Expressive Arts in schools as part of a rethink of England’s state education system. The report finds that the arts provide evidenced positive outcomes for young people, but are marginalised in today’s school system, which itself requires a major overhaul.

The Arts in School report calls on:

Policy makers

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Policy makers to reconsider the status of arts in schools as part of a major re-evaluation of the English education system.


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Schools to embrace the arts, and to value their unique contribution to children and young people’s education, development and well-being, and to adopt the five principles enabling a school to become arts-rich:

Breadth: exposure to all art forms and a breadth of work and experiences

Balance: between knowledge and skills

Inclusion: embracing the needs of all children

Relevance: reflective of the world in which children live and will work

Learner voice: listening to children and young people

Arts organisations

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Arts organisations to ensure their resources can be made easily available and relevant to schools (including online), and responsive to their needs, including by opening up opportunities through work experiences, apprenticeships and paid internships.

For arts organisations with learning teams please share the report with your CEO, artistic director and senior leadership team, and with the board and its chair. We know that when learning has a place at senior management and board level and is more embedded within the organisation then its work it strengthened.

Education sector

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Please share The Arts in Schools report and its ten recommendations (or the Executive Summary) with colleagues, school and MAT leaders, governors and other contacts, and on social media (download our social media pack and shareable assets from the launch of the report).

Parents / Carers

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For parents with children in school please consider sharing the report’s findings with the chair of governors, the headteacher and, if relevant, the multi-academy trust leadership.

Social media

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There is a downloadable presentation that you can use to talk about the report in your setting.

More about the report …

Funded by Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and with support from the network of former Bridge organisations, the roundtables, case studies and report have been facilitated by A New Direction, London’s leading not-for-profit organisation generating opportunities for children and young people to develop their creativity.

The report’s findings was presented online to an invited audience of arts and education leaders on 30 March 2023. Speakers included: Dame Alison Peacock, Chief Executive of the Chartered College of Teaching; David Bryan CBE, Founder & Director of Xtend (UK) Ltd and Chair of Art Council England’s London Area Council; and Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, who called the report “utterly comprehensive, authoritative, bleak, but also agenda-setting”.