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“Arts cuts a disaster for children from working-class backgrounds” – Ali Smith

20th February 2015

Award-winning Scottish author Ali Smith has described the systematic removal of the arts from state schools, revealed in a report by the Warwick Commission as both horrific and deeply distressing.

Smith, who was speaking as the guest director of this year’s Brighton festival, said the report – containing figures that showed children’s overall contact with the arts in school has notably decreased over the past five years – were the sign of an education system “going backwards”.

“The Warwick commission has raised things which are horrific,” said Smith. “Introduction and engagement with the arts begins with education. That’s the place where young people either feel included or excluded and if we are cutting back arts coverage and education in our schools, especially at such an early level when young people are so full of possibility and pliability, then where and how are they going to pursue it later if they feel it was never for them in the first place?”

Among the commission’s findings were statistics showing that those from working-class backgrounds were being worst hit by the cuts in cultural education, with the wealthiest 8% of society now found to make up nearly half of live music audiences and a third of theatregoers and gallery visitors. Smith, whose novels The Accidental and How to be Both, were both nominated for the Booker prize, said that having come from a working-class background herself, school had played a fundamental role in encouraging her to “embrace the arts vibrantly and freely”.

“Why would we take that away, why would we go backwards?” she asked. “And it astonishes me to think that it is my generation doing that. I find it deeply distressing that around a third of kids compared to five years ago now have no contact with the arts. It is causing damage at every level and it needs to be addressed.”

Read more on the Guardian website