A new report, An Unequal Playing Field, commissioned by Damien Hinds MP, the Secretary of State for Education, and published by the Social Mobility Commission, has found inequality of access to the arts out of school for many young people living in disadvantaged situations.
The report highlights disparities in children’s participation rates across a wide range of extra-curricular activities depending on their social background and location. Children aged 10 to 15 from wealthier families are much more likely to take part in every type of activity especially music and sport.
The University of Bath, who conducted the research, found that children who do participate in extra-curricular activities gain confidence and build up their social skills which is much sought after by employers. They are also more likely to aspire to go on to higher or further education.
The report indicates that 3.59% of students taking part in art extra-curricular activities were Indian compared to 15.75% who were Black African. Geographically, the report also indicates (appendix, p.73) that participants in the North East (4.37%) are least likely to take part on art extra-curricular activities and most likely to take part if resident in Scotland (13.05%).
The Social Mobility Commission provides four recommendations for government, schools and voluntary organisations:
1. Introduce a national extra-curricular bursary scheme for disadvantaged families
2. Provide funding to develop and extend voluntary sector initiatives that allow access to activities
3. Increase the capacity of schools to provide extra-curricular activities and provision of extra information
4. Improve data collection and continue research into soft skills development.
In the report Dame Martina Milburn, Chair, Social Mobility Commission says:
‘Our research shows too many young people from disadvantaged backgrounds never get the chance. As a result, they lose out on the benefits – increased confidence which helps social interaction, a real aspiration to go onto higher or further education, more soft skills and a sense of wellbeing and belonging.
‘Ultimately our report shows that a young person may miss out on some of the most valuable experiences in life – a chance to bond with others, aspire to learn more, and gain the soft skills so important to employers – simply because of their social background and where they grew up. It is time to level the playing field.’
Dr Rachel Payne, NSEAD President, says:
'This report is important because it leaves no doubt that there are inequalities of access to arts in schools. If a young person has very limited opportunity in school and no opportunity out of school to study art and design, are we as a nation fulfilling a child's right to artistic participation?’