Visualise: Race & Inclusion in Secondary Art Education

The Visualise report, published by the Runnymede Trust and Freelands Foundation, 5 March 2024, has found significant under-representation of minority ethnic artists in school curricula.

The report is an essential read, rich in qualitative and quantitative data and advocacy for our subject and, essentially, diversification of the curriculum. The report also calls for greater diversity and representation in examination papers, and in the workforce more broadly. 

The report says: 

This new research found a strong desire amongst teachers and students to diversify teaching content and improve experiences of art education for all. But teachers are under pressure, overworked and under-resourced, and art education in schools remains overwhelmingly narrow in terms of curriculum content and exam assessment.

The report provides 119 pages of detailed research, terminology, findings ands recommendations. The report also includes artist, designer and maker advocacy and voice.

The research finds:

●  Just 2.3% of artists named in GCSE Art exam papers are from Black (1.54%) or South Asian (0.74%) backgrounds.

●  Students expressed a strong desire to study a broader art curriculum, with nearly two thirds (66%) of secondary school students wanting to study artists from a wider range of ethnic backgrounds, rising to 80% among Black students.

●  Teachers lack confidence and resources, with a third of teachers having never encountered the work of any minority ethnic artists in their own education, and 90% of teachers surveyed saying that supplementary teaching resources dedicated to the work of minority ethnic artists would aid their teaching.

●  Echoing a broader theme emerging from educators across subjects, teachers feel unsupported in how to discuss race in their classrooms. Fewer than 4 in 10 teachers surveyed felt sure of the correct language to use when teaching the work of minority ethnic artists, with 82% asking for additional standardised content on race and diversity.

The study does emphasise the influential role of exam boards in shaping teachers' approaches. In the context of a marketised education system in which teachers are time poor and accountable for students’ grades, Visualise urges exam boards to diversify the range of artists featured in exam paper questions to encourage innovation in art education.

The report includes the following recommendations:

●  Establish standards for inclusion and diversity in GCSE assessment materials;

●  Improve access to teacher and curriculum resources that support a broad and diverse curriculum; and

●  Improve racial literacy and curriculum development skills for teachers;

●  Investigate low levels of engagement in art lessons and extracurricular enrichment activities offered by schools;

●  Improve partnerships between galleries and schools, with specific attention to diversity and representation;

●  Improve the understanding and promotion of the skills gained in art and creative subjects amongst students and families; and

●  Improve the data landscape around art education across all levels of education. 

In the foreword, Keith Piper, curator, researcher and academic says:

The recent success and visibility of Black and majority global artists and designers provide us with a wealth of examples to inspire young creatives. However, creating curricula that are responsive to this is a more difficult task, and time-poor teachers need to balance this with the long tail of Western art history, which has traditionally struggled to recognise the importance of global forms and their impact upon 'modernity'. 

This can only be achieved through the redrafting and diversification of the canon of art history and the creation of engaging new learning materials that help teachers confidently present it to their students. Our work is cut out.

Harold Offeh, visual artist, describes the impact of his teacher Carla Mindel, NSEAD, who decolonised the curriculum and encouraged Harold to question art history's otherwise European focussed canon:

Looking back, what my art teacher, Carla Mindel, facilitated was curiosity. She created an environment where I could identify questions and cultural interests and pursue them through art and culture. At school, art and culture never felt superfluous or secondary, it was relevant and vital, equipping me with the tools to reflect on my place in the world, communicate and contribute to the world. I was empowered to make, think, play and do.

Read the more about the report here 

Read the full report here.