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Darcey Bussell and Fiona Shaw back ‘call to arms’ for arts education

Darcey Bussell speaking at the launch of ImagineNation in Westminster. Photo: Cultural Learning Alliance

Dancer Darcey Bussell, actor Fiona Shaw and culture minister Matt Hancock are among those backing a “call to arms” for arts education, as a new report on its benefits is published.

Created by the Cultural Learning Alliance, the report – called ImagineNation – has been published along with a corresponding list of 10 research findings. It sets out the dangers facing arts education in the UK and makes the case for its significance.

It comes amid ongoing efforts to protect and maintain arts provision in schools in the face of government measures such as the English Baccalaureate – which does not include any mandatory creative subjects [1].

The findings represent an update on research first published by the Alliance in 2011.

New additions include the claim that children who take part in arts activities at home during their early years will have higher ability in English and maths at aged nine than those who do not.

People who take part in cultural activities are 38% more likely to report good health, the research also claims.

In addition, young offenders who take part in the arts are said to be 18% less likely to reoffend, a figure cited by Cultural Learning Alliance co-director Samantha Cairns at an event last year [2].

Other findings that have been renewed for 2017 include the fact that students from low-income families who take part in arts activities at school are three times more likely to go on to get a degree.

The research also says that students from low-income families that engage in the arts are 20% more likely to vote as young adults and twice as likely to volunteer.

The report is described as a “celebration” of the work being done and a “call to arms for everyone in education and the arts in the UK today”.

It references the difficult climate for culture in current times, and asks the industry to use the newly published evidence to make the case for the arts.

“[The findings] show that the arts and culture are not an add-on, or a nice-to-have, but are part of the fabric of our society, and that young people have a right to experience the best and to be given the opportunity to make their own contribution to the continual reshaping of our civilisation,” the report says.

The study was launched at a event in parliament, attended by around 35 MPs and parliamentarians alongside figures from the arts and education sectors.

Alongside Bussell, Hancock and Shaw were former culture minister Ed Vaizey – who hosted the event – Young Vic artistic director David Lan and film producer and Labour peer David Puttnam, who also chairs the Alliance.