A lack of specialist art education in primary schools is stunting the development of children's expressive and creative talents, researchers at Staffordshire University have found.
The problem could mean that fewer pupils are progressing to arts courses in further and higher education than would be the case if specialist support were available early on, the researchers say.
A one-year study led by Richard Jolley found that children's expressive capabilities barely advance from the age of five to nine. With the help of art experts, Staffordshire research colleague Claire Barlow and Maureen Cox of the University of York, Dr Jolley analysed drawings by pupils expressing happiness, sadness and anger. The study was the first of its kind in the country.
Although children's skills clearly improved as they progressed through primary education, the level of artistic expression in their drawings changed little throughout the primary school age groups.
Dr Jolley said this was largely the result of children's ideas of what pictures were for, which went unchallenged, because few teachers had the training needed to develop expressive ideas.
"Often, they are not being taught by people with a wealth of art experience. It's a lack of specialist art education that makes the development of expressive art vulnerable," he said.
Dr Jolley said the lack of teaching support for art at primary level was likely to have a negative effect on children's interest in the subject at secondary school and beyond.
He said: "Most children stop drawing for their own interest at the age of 12. It is only those who have a particular talent or a very good primary school teacher who carry it on. By then it may be too late to develop a creative talent that could carry them through to a higher level."
A selection of the children's drawings, two of which are pictured, left, is on show this week at an exhibition at The Pavilion, Staffordshire University.