A report in this week’s Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/poorer-pupils-forced-to-drop-arts-subjects-due-to-the-costs-of-studying-9270147.html?dm_i=14DE,2E2S5,9DQONC,8OJIJ,1) on hundreds of children giving up on studying arts subjects because of cost deeply concerns me.
Apparently, one in four of those receiving free school meals (an indicator often used in the state system to assess children in most need) has had to ditch arts subjects such as photography and textiles as well as music because they can’t afford the materials they need to study them.
One in 7 of other children also admit to having chosen their study options purely on the basis of cost.
The survey, carried out for the National Union of Teachers, the Child Poverty Action Group, the British Youth Council and Kids Company, also found children from low income families often abandoned arts subjects because they had not been able to attend the required after school activities to supplement them.
I have previously raised my concerns about the downgrading of creative subjects by schools in the drive to raise academic standards. Combine this problem with that of children dropping the subjects because of costs and you have a recipe for disaster for the future of the creative arts in the UK.
It is, of course, a huge irony that this is occurring at all when the creative arts industry is booming and making billions for the UK economy. On the one hand, we seem to be telling the majority of our young people that these are subjects that can be sacrificed and yet, on the other, excellence in the creative arts is of crucial importance to Great Britain Plc and therefore should surely be studied at school by as many as possible!
At Heathfield, we are well known for our creative arts and, of course, our girls are very lucky indeed to be able to study these subjects without some of the barriers that other children apparently do. But luck should never come into whether one child can study the arts and another cannot. In its drive to improve academic standards in the UK, the Government must take heed of such surveys as the one out this week and not allow some of the future creative brains of the UK to give up their studies because they are not valued highly enough or because they cannot afford the materials for their studies.
As Camila Batmanghelidjh, of Kids Company so eloquently says: “No child in Britain should go to school hungry and be denied access to learning. If they are the political system is failing them.”