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Sir Nicholas Serota

Arts Council England to Start Inquiry into Benefits of Art for Children

Sir Nicholas Serota, in his new position as the chairman of Arts Council England, has announced that an investigation into the benefits of exposing children to art—referred to as the Durham Commission on Creativity and Education—will be one of the council’s first major projects under his leadership, reports Mark Brown of The Guardian.

The eighteen-month-long inquiry has been formed as a response to concerns that the opportunities to offer arts education to children has been damaged by the government’s English baccalaureate, or Ebacc, which does not make arts study mandatory. Serota says the commission will allow educators and administrators to “step back, review the evidence, see what has worked, and come up with some proposals.”

A protest letter delivered to Prime Minister Theresa May on March 15 underlining problems with the Ebacc was signed by more than one hundred leading figures in the British art world, including Tate’s new director, Maria Balshaw, who took over the position from Serota. The letter states that in 2016, the percentage of students enrolled in at least one arts-related class declined considerably and that teaching hours and courses in the arts have dropped almost twice as quickly as in other subjects. On the matter, Serota said, “Even if they were to open the Ebacc to one arts subject, I don’t think that would be the complete solution. In my view, it would help, but it would only be a partial solution. What I think the Durham commission might do is come up with a number of ideas that would be applied across the country to ensure kids in all kinds of schools get the kind of opportunities that are currently available only in the best of schools.” The commission is expected to start its inquiry in September and have a report ready by the spring of 2019.

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