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Bazalgette weighs in to preserve ‘vital’ arts education in schools

Arts Council England chair Peter Bazalgette

Arts Council England chair Peter Bazalgette has argued that improving accessibility to the arts for young people is more important than ever.

He claimed it was “vital that arts and culture are not squeezed out” of schools.

In an article written for the Times Educational Supplement, Bazalgette claimed that all children deserved a rich cultural education, but said ”not all of them are getting it”.

“While research shows that engagement with arts and culture among children and young people is crucial to developing lifelong habits, we also know that in some areas, this is perceived as less of a priority. And we also know that those from the most deprived backgrounds are least likely to engage with cultural activities,” he said.

Bazalgette added: “We need to address this now and close the gaps. This is at a time when, more than ever, we need to free all the talent we have at our nation’s disposal.”

His comments come amid an ongoing debate over the implementation of the English Baccalaureate [1] in secondary schools, a measure which focuses on a core academic curriculum for pupils and which currently does not make creative subjects compulsory.

“It can be tempting to narrow choice to focus on improvement in core subjects like maths and English. We know, however, that young people who engage with the arts are happier, and have improved concentration and higher aspiration,” Bazalgette continued.

He added: “Children need to have opportunities to experience the arts through the statutory arts curriculum… It is vital that arts and culture are not squeezed out, with high-quality cultural experiences available to all young people, regardless of background.”

Last year Arts Council England launched the Cultural Education Challenge [2], a call to action for schools, arts organisations and local authorities to improve access to culture to all young people.