Jude Kelly: arts sector must take education into its own hands

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Cultural education for children should be provided by arts organisations rather than being “foisted” on to the government or schools, Southbank Centre artistic director Jude Kelly has said.

Kelly said the creative industry should stop waiting for the government to introduce changes that will improve arts education in schools. Instead, there needs to be a “complete overhaul” of delivering it through the cultural sector, she argued.

Speaking at a seminar on cultural education organised by Westminster Forum Projects, Kelly said: “I no longer believe I should foist that on to government, or even on to formal school education, because I have no evidence that all of those other rights [racial, sexual and gender equality] were ever made real first by governments or through education systems. They were made real through the grass roots upwards.”

Kelly suggested that responsibility should also be “slightly” removed from the arts council, because in the past schemes such as theatre in education were not instigated by the funding body.

She said she was not surprised that Darren Henley’s review of cultural education, published in 2011, had not been implemented, as she had sat on a committee that led to a similar report – by Ken Robinson in 1999 – which was also never put into action.

“The call now is to my sector. Instead of asking schools to sort it out for us so that they deliver pupils who have a proper cultural education, we must have a complete overhaul of how we deliver cultural education through our own cultural bodies,” said Kelly.

Meanwhile, a recent report by the House of Commons’ culture, media and sport committee has recommended that arts subjects be added to the EBacc performance measure, which was introduced to secondary schools in 2010.

The committee said the broader arts curriculum had been “seriously hit” by the EBacc assessment – a performance measure that is different to the EBacc qualifications proposed to replace GCSEs that have now been dropped. It said there was a danger there would be a “continued diminution” in the provision of creative subjects at schools opting to use the measure.

The report said: “We therefore recommend that arts are added to the five subject areas [English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences and a language] currently on which the EBacc assessment is based.”

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