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Wednesday, 31 October, 2001, 13:18 GMT
Prince criticises art education
Abstract from Alderman Davies Primary School, Neath
Abstract from Alderman Davies Primary School, Neath
The Prince of Wales has criticised the lack of priority given to art education.

Estimated spending on art per pupil
Ages 5 - 7: 1.18
Ages 7 - 11: 1.29
Ages 11 - 18: 2.68
Too many people dismissed art as a luxury, he said - but it should be an essential part of the curriculum.

Speaking at the opening of the Tate Britain's Centenary Development in central London, Prince Charles said: "It is encouraging to note that there are now some 70,000 art students at work in this country for whom Tate Britain must be a first port of call."

It is the duty of all of us to ensure that art practice and its appreciation remains an essential ingredient of the modern education

Prince Charles
But he added: "What is less encouraging, perhaps, is the fact that in some secondary and primary schools less than 60p per pupil per year is spent on art materials.

"A basic knowledge of art is still too readily dismissed by too many as a luxury that has little to do with the business of life.

"Of course, it has everything to do with the business of life.


"Indeed, I would go so far as to say that it is the duty of all of us to ensure that art practice and its appreciation remains an essential ingredient of the modern education we give our schoolchildren and college students."

If Picasso were around today he would probably get a grade D

Dr John Steers
Art is a compulsory subject in England and in Wales up to the age of 14.

But the recent Artworks survey of art and design resources in primary and secondary schools suggested that spending on art materials had fallen in the last six years.

It was 1.18 a year for five to seven year olds, 1.29 for older primary children, and 2.68 for those in secondary schools.

The average English primary school spends just over 100 a year per pupil on books and equipment for all subjects.

In the survey, some schools were spending as little as 60p per child. Some asked older pupils to buy their own equipment.

More than a third of primary schools depended on asking outside organisations or companies for free materials.


The general secretary of the National Society for Education in Art and Design, Dr John Steers, backed the prince's remarks.

The funding was "ludicrously small" and made a nonsense of the national curriculum requirements, he said.

But Prince Charles had also touched on a more fundamental problem, which was that art education was more and more prescribed by the national curriculum and, in secondary schools, by exams.

"If you take all these things together, you just wonder how much creativity there is. People are going through the motions rather than being able to really allow kids to explore the subject and the media.

"Everything gets reduced to a formula which is about getting kids through GCSEs.

"If Picasso were around today he would probably get a grade D - or almost any artist."


The over-prescription - the criteria that had to be met - meant that youngsters were producing what had become known as "school art" - which had no resemblance to anything in the real world of art and design.

Dr Steers said the answer was to trust art teachers again. The government talked about giving schools more freedom, but that was conditional on improving literacy and numeracy in the early secondary years.

So in the meantime thing were likely to get worse, if anything - just as the literacy and numeracy strategies in primary schools had squeezed out art and design.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: "Art is an important part of the national curriculum.

"As the government's recent education White Paper makes clear we are committed to the cultural enrichment of the curriculum, particularly at primary stage."

Concerns have also been raised by this year's GCSE results in art.

Against the overall trend, the number of A* and A grades awarded fell - from 21.6% of entries last year to 21%.

See also:

30 Oct 01 | Arts
Royal opening for Tate Britain
18 Jul 00 | CSR
Spending boost for schools
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