Politicians, theatre companies and academics gather to discuss the important of joining the arts and education

Arts in education hampered by school exam culture in Wales

EXPERTS from across Wales have come together to discuss the importance of the arts in education, despite pressures faced by schools to prioritise exam results.
The Policy Forum for Wales, which took place this morning, saw theatre companies, politicians and education leaders meet to assess the state of creative learning and cultural education.
The meeting was held to assess the development of a national ‘expressive arts’ curriculum, which seeks to encourage creative skills taught in arts subjects to be transferred across all classes.
During the event Phil George, Chairman of the Arts Council for Wales, explained that following a report published in 2013 the group has worked hard to include schools in the Welsh government’s Creative Learning through the Arts Plan which encourages schools and artists to work together.
Other participants also stressed the importance of the arts within school. Hefin Davies, AM and member of the Children and Young People Education Committee, stressed that arts subjects have equal value to Science, Technology and Maths in the curriculum.
Tim Pratt, Director for the Association for School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru warned that such goals may be difficult to achieve in schools due to an over reliance on the outcomes of examinations.
“If we place so much emphasis on examinations that we don’t allow time for the arts we will cause problems. Literacy and numeracy elements of the education are overriding everything else,” he added.
Another common theme was concerns raised over a ‘skill shortage’ of people in Welsh creative industries.
Managing Director of the National Theatre Wales Michelle Carwardine-Palmer stated: “We risk losing our current position as a creative work leader” if the issue is not overcome.
Her words were echoed by Welsh Government Head of Arts Policy Branch Peter Owen. He explained that the despite a growth in the creative industry in Wales, the problem lies with a lack of skills and trade to support the trend.
To overcome the issue, Mr Owen said that more evidence needs to be provided to highlight the positive effect of creative learning on education.
He said: “We all know that it does but we do need to get better at proving it.”
Other areas for discussion included the decline in applications for the Welsh National Youth Orchestra with 50 fewer students applying to the group compared to last year. Participants from the panel suggested that the move was due to the difficulties with some groups getting access to musical instruments.
Professor Jerry Hunter, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Bangor University added that a similar trend has been noted in higher education, with a “massive decline in people applying to study music.”
Mr Owen announced that a detailed vision for the culture sector would be released in early December.