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A new report shows a continued decline in the provision of arts education in primary schools


Primary Colours is a new report, published by the Fabian Society, shows there is less arts education in primary schools now than in 2010.

Of the respondents who took part in the survey, two thirds (68%) said there was less arts education now than in 2010, and half (49%) say the quality of what there is has got worse.

The report, which can be read here, presents new findings from a Fabian/YouGov survey of a representative sample of 348 primary school teachers and a Fabian survey of 53 arts providers across England. The report concludes that: 'The government must take immediate steps to reverse this worrying decline' and has provided eight recommendations for reform: ‘No school should be judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted unless it offers high-quality arts education as part of a broad and balanced curriculum.’

The Primary Colours report findings show:

• A decline in quantity: Two-thirds of teachers (68 per cent) say arts provision in their primary school has decreased since 2010, with just 7 per cent saying there is more.
• A decline in quality: Almost half (49 per cent) of surveyed teachers say the quality of arts provision in their primary school has worsened since 2010, with just 13 per cent believing it has improved.
• A lack of support and resources: A majority of teachers (56 per cent) do not believe they have access to the resources and support to deliver a high quality arts education.
• A lack of skills and experience: Nearly half of teachers (45 per cent) also believe they do not have the skills and experience needed to provide a high quality arts education, compared to 32 percent who say they do.
• Not enough emphasis on arts: A majority of teachers (59 per cent) believe their school does not give enough emphasis to the arts, with only 37 per cent believing their school gives the right amount of emphasis and 3 per cent thinking their school gives too much.
• Reduced accessibility of arts outside of the classroom: A majority of teachers (58 per cent) believe there are fewer out of school arts trips, compared to 2010, with just 5 per cent saying there has been an increase.

The authors of the report also identify four key arguments for providing high-quality arts education in primary schools: Cognitive development; Overcoming inequalities; Building confidence and expanding horizon and Social cohesion.

The report makes the following recommendations:

• Increased and ringfenced school funding for arts education in English primary schools worth £150m, through an arts education premium for every primary school.
• An arts specialist available for every primary school in England, with increased arts training for all teachers.
• A greater priority for the arts in the English national curriculum, including by expanding the guidance given to schools for arts and music education, and creating new foundation subjects for drama and dance.
• No school should be judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted unless it offers high-quality arts education as part of a broad and balanced curriculum.
• Free music or singing lessons for three years for every primary school child in England who wishes to learn.
• A free visit to a local arts institution for every primary school child in England every year.
• New support for cultural education partnerships with funding to support local, place-based, and accessible arts education in every community.

Primary Colours, say NSEAD has confirmed the findings of our own survey NSEAD Survey Report 2015-16. The report has shown that since 2016 there has been no improvement in arts provision in schools and that since 2010, the government's polices have continued to impact on provision, training and essentially a child's entitlement to a broad and balanced arts inclusive curriculum’.


Primary Colours, was published in partnership with the charity Children & the Arts and the Musicians’ Union.

14 Jan 2019