Last week the FFT Education datalab extended their July 2022 data report showing the fall in the percentage of pupils achieving a qualification in art, music, or performing arts at KS4 between 2015 and 2023. This further analysis indicates that access to creative subjects tended to decrease with increasing school-level disadvantage, particularly in music, and that this pattern has persisted over time with pupils in schools with the most disadvantaged populations least likely to take music or performing arts and more likely to be in a school where these qualifications weren’t available to them. A race and inclusion in secondary school art education report released last week also highlighted underrepresentation of minoritised ethnic artists at GCSE level, with only 2.3% named in GCSE exam papers. Additionally, 80% of surveyed Black pupils expressed a desire for a more diverse art curriculum in their school with a lack of familiarity among art teachers with minoritised ethnic artists’ work.

It has long been accepted that creativity and performing arts are subjects that offer the opportunity to create a strong sense of inclusion and belonging in a school as an example, 93% of 16-18 year olds in a 2022 study led by Newcastle University reported that studying a creative subject impacted positively on their mental health and wellbeing. This often quoted statistics of the huge value of the creative industries to the UK economy clearly demonstrate that something is missing here. Addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort from school leaders to ensure an equitable learning offer by acting as advocates for the arts and offering support and resources for teachers that promote inclusion and diversity in the arts curriculum.

Camden schools have a long and proud history of celebrating the arts, not least through the bi-annual Albert Hall music concert, but also through our Camden enrichment pledge (p9) that underpins the values of BBS. The NGA ethnicity toolkit provides tools and advice for governing boards and school leaders on how they can ensure their curriculum is diverse and inclusive of the experiences and histories of minoritised ethnic groups, and this year we have a real opportunity to put the fine arts front of stage at our first ever Camden Arts Biennale. This is a brilliant opportunity for us to celebrate our diversity by ensuring that the art we display is representative of the communities that we serve.

Thank you for everything you are doing, despite the many challenges that you are facing. I hope you have a well deserved and restful weekend.

Stephen Hall

Chief Executive Officer, Camden Learning

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