Access to the visual arts will be a preserve of privately educated children unless the government takes urgent action to improve the curriculum of the school, warned Tate’s director, Maria Balshaw, and the artist Steve McQueen.
Tate has joined hands with McQueen and 35 museums and galleries across the country to speak about that the curriculum in England is failing children.
We are calling for an “arts-rich curriculum” as a “lasting legacy” for the hugely popular school photo campaign by McQueen which filled Tate Britain with thousands of year 3 children’s class photos.
Balshaw said that access to the arts “must not depend on social and economic advantage”.
More than 600 schoolchildren a day visit Tate Britain to see the 3-year pictures from McQueen, featuring a total of 76,146 children two-thirds of all seven- and eight-year-olds from London.
Tate claims that if the allowance for secondary school arts continues to decline, many of these kids may have little opportunity to take art when they move from primary school.
Balshaw said that teachers were too often thwarted in their aspiration to provide arts-rich education through “the curriculum restriction and the dire lack of resources.”
McQueen said the opportunity to study art had been transformative for him. “I remember my first trip to Tate when I was a kid. It was a real eye-opener. Watching an explosion of ideas and creativity, visual creativity, was wonderful. It gave me an understanding that anything was possible,” “he added.
“The curriculum must be big enough to include all subjects and be all for all children. For science, math, or any other academic venture, art and creativity are so important. Cutting education in arts means cutting off inventiveness that affects creativity.
“We have a lot of great artists, great thinkers and inventors in the UK and a sense of possibility has come through this. Education in the arts gives that sense of possibility.”
Tate’s call was supported by the Plus Tate network of 35 museums and galleries across the UK, from Gateshead’s Baltic to Eastbourne’s Towner.
Martin Clark, the director of Camden Arts Centre and a convenor for Plus Tate’s education working group, said the curriculum was failing young people.
He added, “In a climate where visual literacy, creative thinking and innovation are going to be key to the future of our country, millions of children are being failed by an education system not fit for purpose or for the new realities of the 21st century,” he said.
Many see the decline in arts education in England’s schools as one of the most urgent cultural issues. Cultural Learning Alliance figures show a decrease of 10 percent between 2017 and 2018 in pupils taking arts subjects at GCSE. A 35 percent drop in the take-up of GCSE arts subjects has been taking place since 2010.


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