Despite the protestations of Nicky Morgan and Nick Gibb that the place of the arts in British education is safe (with well-researched lists of contemporary British cultural icons within their recent speeches to prove how on trend they both are), I am still mistrustful of their real commitment to culture.
Nicky Morgan, addressing the Creative Industries Federation in July, said: “I believe access to cultural education is a matter of social justice”, while Nick Gibb, launching Arts Council England’s Cultural Education Challenge in October, proudly stated that “since 2010 the percentage of pupils entered for at least one arts GCSE has increased”.
This is the man who, in a speech at the think tank Policy Exchange in June, said he made no apology for “protecting the space” in the curriculum for the five EBacc subjects – history or geography, the sciences, a language, English and maths – and that the arts would not suffer as a result of this policy.
The Cultural Education Challenge is a welcome intervention. Most of the UK’s independent schools already have their own version of bridge organisations with neighbouring state schools.
These necessary partnerships help to give substance to Nick Gibb’s support of all young people enjoying an “excellent cultural education, regardless of their background” and it is gratifying that so many schools and other organisations are prepared to step in and put their money where his mouth is.
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