Lords debate: arts important in the education of children from working class backgrounds

11 March 2020

On 5 March the House of Lords had a debate on the educational opportunities available for children from working class backgrounds which was introduced by Baroness Morris, herself a former Education Secretary.

Baroness Morris in her introduction was highly critical of the narrowing of curriculum and schools with no arts:

“If we have schools where is there is no creativity—no art, no music, no band or orchestra—but there is an awful lot of phonics teaching, we are not going to build children up. They might be able to pass the phonics test, but they will not have the confidence that is essential to get on in life.”

Several peers spoke about the importance of the arts. Conservative peer Lord Kirkham spoke about the need to develop pupils’ confidence, interpersonal and social skills.

“I deeply regret the ever-increasing focus of state education on core subjects—English, maths and science—and the fact that teaching is relentlessly centred on exam results. Learning modern languages and nurturing ​an appreciation of art, music and drama can all do much to grow a young person’s sense of self-worth and enjoyment of life, regardless of background.”

Baroness McIntosh highlighted the need for the Department for Education to be persuaded on the importance of the arts:

“I hope that when the Minister comes to reply she will not only acknowledge the value of the arts in helping young people to find and make good use of their talents—I am sure she will—but also give an undertaking that she will do everything in her power to influence the more sceptical of her colleagues in the Department for Education who have yet to be persuaded.”

Baroness Berridge, when giving the government’s response to the debate, mentioned the new Ofsted framework focus on a broad and balanced curriculum, the manifesto commitment to the Arts Premium and also the importance of arts:

“Of course, other aspects of development are important for working-class students, particularly such things as arts, PE and sport.”

You can read the full debate on Hansard or watch on Parliament TV.