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‘We ignore the arts at our peril’ – Alun Jones on the provision of arts in state schools

20th November 2015

A leading independent school headteacher is set to criticise provision of the arts in state schools, claiming they have been “all but squeezed out” of the school day.

Alun Jones, president of the Girls’ Schools Association, will say that an “ever-changing curriculum” over which teachers have “no ownership” is to blame.

Pockets of excellence are now “rare” except in private schools, he will say.

His comments come as a debate over arts education continues in the state sector, with education secretary Nicky Morgan accused of squeezing it out in favour of maths and science.

Ms Morgan has defended the policy of excluding the arts from the English Baccalaureate suite of core traditional subjects, saying that arts educators have “nothing to fear” from the EBac. The arts are “the birthright of every child”, she said in a speech last summer.

But in a speech to his association’s annual conference in Newport, South Wales on Monday, Mr Jones was due to say: “I am thinking particularly of music and the creative or expressive arts, which have all but been squeezed out of the school day in many state schools by the imposition of what seems like a constantly changing curriculum, a curriculum in which our state school colleagues do not have ownership.

“There are still some pockets of excellent practice around the country. Some music hubs thrive and provide an invaluable service to local schools. In fact, I was particularly uplifted after visiting one particular state school in London this year…Sadly, this is now rare except in independent schools.”

Mr Jones, who is headteacher of St Gabriel’s School in Newbury, Berkshire will go on to say that arts enrichment has its own “intrinsic value”.

He will add: “At the same time [it] delivers all those soft skills we hear so much about – life skills that enable our students to reach further in life and career.”

And the arts should have equal value to science and maths, he will add: “Creative arts must have equal parity with STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] subjects as a vital component of academic and life success and mental wellbeing…

“In a society where self-direction, the skills to manage your own learning and the ability to persevere without that constant need for instant gratification are becoming more important than traditional achievements, we ignore the creative and expressive arts at our peril.”

Read more on the TES website