Visualise: Race & Inclusion in Art Education report is published

The long awaited Visualise report finds 2.3% of artists referenced in GCSE Art exam papers are from Black or South Asian backgrounds, new research finds.

Launched in our APPG for Art, Craft and Design in Education, the Visualise report has found significant under-representation of minority ethnic artists in school curricula. The Runnymede Trust and Freelands Foundation report is 119 pages long – an essential read, rich in qualitative and quantitative data. 

As well as calling for 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 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.

Dr Shabna Begum, Interim CEO of the Runnymede Trust, said:

Art and design education has the power to unleash young people’s creative and innovative potential, and to expand their horizons, both within and beyond the classroom. It’s up to exam boards, policymakers, and the broader visual arts sector to now work together to build an art education that students enjoy learning and teachers want to teach. An ambitious, enriching, broad and inclusive curriculum should be something everyone can work together for.

Head of Art and NSEAD ARAEA (Anti-Racist Art Education Actions) member, Dr Clare Stanhope, said:

Emerging from this work is the overwhelming desire for reform; this report is based in hope, it is a call to action. Educators and students are orientated towards creating, if not demanding, an art educational future that is diverse and empowering for those that it serves. There is an urgency, a shift in direction, that I have not experienced in my twenty years of teaching, and that is very exciting. Everyone who is involved in art education, in whatever capacity, this report speaks to you, and although long overdue, now is the time for change.

Michel Gregson, CEO and General Secretary of NSEAD, said: 

'This 119-page report is a game changer  – for art and design, yes, and for all subjects and the report makes clear. The need for a contemporary, diverse and inclusive curricula could not be more pressing, and the evidence laid bear in this report explains why. All children and young people want to achieve their potential, but for this to happen educators and learners are calling for change. They know that this can only be achieved if our classrooms, the curriculum, resources and examination materials are anti-racist. The report writers say (p.114): "We are grateful to the young people who participated in this research. The world that they hope for and the classrooms they dream of inspired and sustained this work." This large-scale report is full of rich data and evidence – it stands to make the hopes and dreams they richly describe, into a reality. We call on everyone involved in art and design education – as well as education policy makers more broadly – to act on its recommendations now.'

Many members, including Kevin Dalton Johnson and Rayvenn D'Clark, worked on the Visualise team. Marlene Wylie, president of NSEAD is the Visualise project lead. 

Read the full report here.