Crisis in arts teaching poses long-term threat, says RSA

January 1, 1999

The recruitment and training of art teachers is in crisis and threatens to damage severely the long-term health of the arts in education, says a study by the Royal Society of Arts.

Based on interviews with 100 initial teacher training providers in England, the RSA has found widespread evidence that they are abandoning specialisms in arts subjects, cutting the hours allocated to the arts and gradually losing vital resources such as equipment and staff.

Ofsted inspections have revealed that almost half of all postgraduate teacher training courses in the arts have significant weaknesses, including half of the music courses inspected, the report says.

Nine out of ten students on primary teaching courses believe that they spend too little training time on the arts, and many qualified ones say they have little confidence in teaching them, especially drama and music.

Recruitment for secondary arts teachers has been worsening also. The RSA says that in 1997-98, art under-recruited by 6 per cent, music by 16 per cent and design and technology by 42 per cent.

Final estimates for 1998-99 show more deterioration: art is under target by 12 per cent, music by 23 per cent and design and technology by 57 per cent. Even English and drama is now under-recruiting by 9 per cent, compared with 1 per cent in 1997-98.

Rick Rogers, author of the RSA report, puts the blame for much of the "spiralling decline" of the arts in education on the overemphasis of literacy and numeracy by successive governments.

Christopher Frayling, rector of the Royal College of Art, is another who is concerned about the downgrading of the arts. He says that the phrase "Three Rs", which has profound influence on education policy, originated in the 19th century when it actually denoted "reading, wroughting and arithmetic".

"The 'wroughting' placed creative making skills on par with literacy (reading and writing) and numeracy skills. In the 20th century it has been replaced by writing, and this has led to the arts being squeezed out."

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