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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 June, 2003, 09:33 GMT 10:33 UK
School arts 'undermined by curriculum'
School orchestra
Teachers are trying to keep the arts going, a survey suggests
Arts teaching in primary schools is under threat from excessive concentration on literacy and numeracy, a report claims.

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) said the amount of time devoted to subjects such as drawing and music had declined.

Some 250 of the 968 heads and 768 teachers who took part in its survey specifically blamed the "focus on literacy and numeracy" within the National Curriculum.

Most were expected to teach the arts to their own classes, but a fifth had had no training in them.

'Need for support'

Head teachers also complained of too few applicants with the necessary skills.

NFER project leader Dick Downing said: "The study shows that teachers and heads are forceful and eloquent about the importance of the arts and their capacity to contribute to the lives of pupils, and to those of heads, teachers, parents and the entire education community.

"They have reported the efforts they are making to secure a good arts education for their pupils and have expressed their need for support in doing so."

The NFER found music, dance and visual arts were still taught in the majority of primary schools.

But drama was a subject provided by fewer than half.

Meanwhile, 69% of primary schools in the sample offered extra-curricular arts activities.

'Enjoyment and excellence'

Graham Lane, education chairman of the Local Government Association, which commissioned the survey, said it was important for heads to share "good practice" to encourage better arts teaching.

Earlier this month, the government promised 70m to increase the amount of cultural activities in the school day.

The money will double the areas covered by the Creative Partnerships scheme - in which schools work with artists, musicians and writers - bringing the total to 40.

At its annual conference in April, the National Union of Teachers voted to ballot its members on boycotting the testing of pupils at ages seven, 11 and 14 in England.

One of the reasons given by delegates was the lack of time left for the arts.

A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said: "We want teachers and pupils to continue to strive for excellence in our primary schools, with enjoyment of learning playing a significant role.

"Ensuring pupils learn the core basics of reading, writing and maths within a rich, broad and creative curriculum is what we want for every child, in every primary school right across the country, and we are committed to helping schools achieve this.

"In our best schools children are engaged by learning that stretches them and excites their imagination.

"They enjoy not just learning lots of different things, but learning in lots of different ways, through art, music and sport. That is why our strategy for primary schools will focus on the need for both enjoyment and excellence in the curriculum."

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