HL Deb 05 April 1982 vol 429 cc88-105

8.25 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make a positive response to the report of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation entitled The Arts in Schools.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. It is getting late, but I make no apology for introducing this very important subject at this particular time. I am only sorry that we are short of two speakers who would have liked to take part, two former Ministers for the Arts, one of them an ex-Secretary of State for Education. Unfortunately, the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, is ill and unable to speak, and I am sure we send him our best wishes for a speedy recovery. And it is very sad that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, has had to scratch at the last moment.

My Lords, my Question is to ask the Government what action they intend to take on the very fine and valuable report The Arts in Schools, produced as the latest of a number of reports on these kind of subjects by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. It is a major document and it deals with important and, on the whole, I think, neglected issues. I know that the present Secretary of State maintains that the Department of Education and Science in fact does take the question of art in education rather more seriously than the report makes out. I would fully grant that. But over a whole period of time I think it is true that there has not been enough emphasis on this particular side of education. The arts, of course, are not alone in this. It is part of the tradition that we have in this country, and it is common to many other countries too, that there is a great emphaiss on the academic tradition. I think we have been the poorer for this over a large number of years, in that both the arts side and the technological side have tended to be neglected.

This subject which we are debating tonight, and which is the subject of this report, is in fact the heart of the whole movement of education for capability which is being sponsored by the Royal Society of Arts at the present time, and which I believe has so much to offer to education in this country. I do not think that there is a great need to argue the case for the value of the arts to education. On the deepest level the arts are fundamental ways of organising our understanding of the world. I think there are few noble Lords who would want their own children to be educated without a knowledge of the arts, without the opportunity to learn to practise some of the arts.

What we want for our children surely we want for the children of this nation, because arts are not just a middle class icing on the cake; they are considerably more basic than that, as Professor Richard Hoggart pointed out a long time ago, and as has become more apparent since. I think we can see, particularly among ethnic groups, how concentration on the arts has helped with integration and with education as a whole. So we are not talking about arts for a particular class of people or a particular kind of people. We are talking about the arts in all schools and for all children. Not to attempt to involve our children in the arts is, as the report says in one place, simply to fail to educate them as fully developed, intelligent and feeling human beings.

One of the reasons why the arts have been neglected to a large extent in the past is that we still tend to think of education as education for something which is going to happen. Education is not just for the future: it is not a stage that children go through on their way to emerge at the end fully equipped. It is an ongoing process by which they live as they learn, and they learn in order that they may live. If our civilisation has any successful values and any success at all, it will become a civilisation in which people go on learning for the whole of their lives. Again, this is something which everyone in your Lordships' House experiences at some time in his or her life. My father-in-law always used to say, "You learn something new every day of your life", and that is, indeed, very true. Some of us learn more than others, but it is essential that we go on learning.

Therefore, we must think of the arts in school as not just the preparation for what happens afterwards, but as something which is deeply affecting children at the time it happens. But the future is important. The preparation is important and it is worth saying a word or two about it very briefly because the points that I want to make are, I think, self-apparent. None of us knows what the pattern of employment in the future will be, but we can make some intelligent guesses. Some of the things which we foresee happening will be things we shall look forward to, and some of them we can only feel rather pessimistic about. But both the optimistic and the pessimistic sides seem to me to make a case for the growing involvement of art in education.

On the optimistic side, if it is true, as many people tell us, that the growing sophistication of technology—the new industrial revolution—will need a highly educated people to operate it, surely it is the arts which foster both the innovation and initiative that we shall need to give impetus and inspiration to the people who are coming out of our schools. Equally, if unemployment, whether in regard to part-time or full-time work, should be one of the fates to come, we do not want to breed a population which will have no resources to put up with these hardships. The arts, and feeling for the arts and for creativeness, are one of the things by which people can creatively transfigure the time that they may find they have.

Much progress has been made in recent years as regards the introduction of arts into education. The document Curriculum: 11–16, written by a group of Her Majesty's Inspectors, has firmly marked out the aesthetic and creative experience as one of the essential areas of experience. In various parts of our educational system the arts have been taken up with enthusiasm and have been taught creatively, imaginatively and well. One only has to mention Leicestershire in the field of the visual arts or ILEA in the field of music to know that local education authorities have been able to make a great success of this field. But the picture is still very patchy even after everything that has happened over the last 20 or 30 years. There is, for instance, in the report, on pages 64 and 65, a mention of the study by Joan Freeman of aesthetically gifted children. She found: that, in some of her sample schools in Salford, there was 'a complete absence of measureable talent'. However,' … there were schools under the same authority, which had whole classes learning instruments and painting with fervour'. She found it difficult to believe that ' aesthetic talent is truly definable by school catchment area '"— and so say all of us. It goes on to say: All of these ' aesthetically impoverished ' children were from economically poor areas: ' … and neither parents nor teachers were seen to be sufficiently motivated to foster anything that was not considered to be essentially education.' ". That is the bad side of the picture. That is the reverse side of the coin.

To add to that complete desert which can be found in various parts of Britain, there is also very often the tokenism that is worse than useless. This very often comes in middle class areas where the arts are admitted to the curriculum but are regarded by everyone as not very important and by children and teachers alike as a holiday from the serious work of the school. That also is a blot on the picture and something which needs to be corrected. It is a vicious circle, and a vicious circle which can only be broken, I suspect, at the level of teacher training. It needs the enthusiasm and the toughness of teachers with real dedication to the arts actually to break into this circle and bring an enthusiasm which did not exist before.

I have painted so far, in very broad canvas, the picture of an increasing awareness of the arts in education. That has been so up to date. There have, of course, been problems. One of the major problems is that of assessment. That is in two forms. It comes, first of all, from the difficulty—which I think all of us in this House who are interested in education have debated time and time again—of the pressure on the educational system from the universities and the examination system working downwards, and the pressure on children to choose subjects which fit into the assessment and examination system.

On the other hand, there is the difficulty of devising proper examinations, if you like, but I think "assessments" would probably be more suitable, for testing children's progress in the arts. Here I should like to ask the noble Lord a question of which I have given him notice. I see that the noble Lord looks surprised. I did give the noble Lord notice; I passed a letter, but it may have got lost somewhere and, if so, I am sorry about that. However, there was an Assessment Performance Unit in the DES and it had a panel particularly dealing with aesthetic development. It was closed down fairly early in the life of this Government. My question was: what had happened to its work; had it produced a report of any kind—I do not think that a report has been published—if it did produce any work, is it possible that we could know something about it? Undoubtedly, whatever the answer to that question, more work is needed on the whole matter of assessment. Gulbenkian I do not think is particularly good on producing answers as regards that matter, and quite openly says that a great deal more work is needed. I hope that the Government will take this on board and will want to do something about it.

There is another minor point that I should like to raise and which I think the DES could do something about fairly quickly. That is the difficulty of the change-over from primary schools to secondary schools. So often when children come into secondary schools, the teachers do not know what has heen happening at the primary level and find it very difficult to find out. It is not like mathematics. You cannot just sit them down, ask them to do sums and say, "you have learnt that, and you have not learnt that". The aesthetic side is much more difficult and I should have thought that some guidance on that would be very helpful to many secondary schools.

So that is the picture to date. But we have the major problem of the recession, which we face in every field that we discuss in this House. I have already said that I think one needs the arts more than normally during a recession. Apart from anything else, they are extremely rewarding in terms of resources. They do not call for great amounts of material. We are not talking about building opera houses when we talk about arts in schools. On the whole, they need dedicated people, and dedicated people who would otherwise be on the dole and costing the state quite a lot of money anyway. I think that there is room for encouragement here.

There was one other question which I had set out in the letter to the noble Lord, which I delivered to the Government's Whip's Office. It was about college of education drama courses. Obviously, I do not expect the noble Lord to be able to answer it tonight if he has not received my letter, but perhaps he will write to me. As I understand the situation, in 1961 there were six drama courses in colleges of education, which I think is about the number that one would expect. By 1971, there were 110, which is a great flowering and very good indeed. In 1981, there were none. I think that that is right. There are no longer even six. If this is a result of the cuts, it is disgraceful and something ought to be done about it.

I think that I have said enough to introduce the report, which I am sure that noble Lords have already read and which I hope many more noble Lords will read, because it is an extremely good report and extremely important. I am delighted to have heard that the DES has sent out a questionnaire to HMIs asking for their comments on the report and that great interest is being shown there. I am sure that that is true. I only hope that it will result in some action. It is an important subject. It is not just the icing on the cake; it really is a part of the cake, because as Peter Brinson, the director of the Gulbenkian Foundation, has said, the title wealth of Britain lies not in her oil or coal or even her fields, but in the imagination of her people. We should be fostering this imagination, not least in these difficult times.

8.43 p.m.

The Earl of Gosford

My Lords, I have been asked by my noble friend Lord Jenkins to apologise for his being unable to be present this evening. He would like me to give your Lordships' House one brief message. He believes that the report is so admirable that he hopes that Her Majesty's Government will now give the money to carry out its recommendations.

I did not put my name down to speak because, due to pressures of my own work, I have been unable to complete the reading of this report. I must apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, that I have not supported him properly in this debate. However, there are one or two points that I should like to make which come out immediately from this document. After this debate, I shall look forward to reading the entire report. I feel already that this is another tour de force by the Gulbenkian Foundation and I am very impressed by the uncompromising stand that the report makes. It says things that I believe those who are artists and those who have been involved in the arts have been wanting to say for a long time and, indeed, have been saying for a long time.

However, when an organisation like the Gulbenkian takes the trouble to produce a report of this strength, we can only be grateful that it has taken the words out of our mouths. The fundamental point about the report is that the arts are fundamental to the school curriculum. They say: In our own view, teaching people about achievements and aspirations in the arts may amount to little more than providing courses in the history and sociology of the arts. Arts education, as we have indicated, involves a great deal more than that". I like the way in which the report goes beyond the idea of art just as a leisure and decorative activity, which it most certainly is and most certainly can be. It goes into the psychological, the physical and the communicative aspects of it, and shows how very necessary it is, on an equal par with arithmetic, English, and all the other subjects that we have to learn at school. Out of this, it becomes its own vehicle for change. I should like to quote a couple of paragraphs which I think are fundamental to everything I should like to say about the arts and at which this report is getting: By 'rationality', we do not mean merely deductive logic of discursive reasoning. We mean the many different conventionalised ways in which, as human beings, we have learned to communicate—through noises, marks, and signs—our ideas and feelings to other people. Some of these do not require verbal communication at all: there are whole 'languages' of meaning which have no direct need for words. They are, nonetheless, exceedingly rich and complex forms of talking to other people". They say earlier: The arts are not outpourings of emotion. They are disciplined forms of inquiry and expression through which to organise feelings and ideas about experience. The need for young people to do this, rather than just to give vent to emotions or to have them ignored, must be responded to in schools. The arts provide the natural means for this". I think that the most difficult thing for a person who is trying to express himself early on in life is the realisation that he is exceptionally lucky if he finds an art teacher who can communicate with the other teachers in such a way that he shows that the art class is not just a corner for the dunces—those who do not particularly take on the ideas of mathematics or other subjects. When you take into account a man like Leonardo, you understand that that, of course, is all quite irrelevant. What we are trying to say, and what this report is saying so exceedingly well, is that the way to communicate is not necessarily through the traditional British school curriculum of the three Rs. The arts must be on an equal par.

I speak personally as an artist and someone who has come through the British education system. All the way through if you have an idea of expressing yourself other than in the ways of traditionally held examinations—and examinations that would get you to university, et cetera—you in some way were a person apart. This is reflected in the fact that in many jobs you are expected to have certain kinds of qualifications, and it seemed to me that the arts qualification was never of such a value as the other qualifications. I should like to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Elton, whether in fact this is now in the past—I would sincerely hope it was—and that an arts examination and an arts degree was in every way as valuable as a chemistry degree, a Latin degree, or a history degree. The same with O- and A-levels.

It is the abandonment of this old reasoning that so commends the arts in schools to us. I should like to end by quoting one more passage from this document: For the reasons which we elaborate throughout this report we are not prepared to concede that the arts can be options on the curriculum which can, under pressures of time, space and resources, be dispensed with. We are convinced that the forms of creative thinking and doing which they represent are fundamental to the curriculum along with other key disciplines: no more than they, but certainly no less. We maintain that the case we make for this is soundly-based. It makes sense not only within the framework of education in all of its forms but also with respect to the pragmatic and hardheaded realities of the current economic and political climate".

8.53 p.m.

Baroness David

My Lords, we are very glad that the Gulbenkian Foundation decided to commission this report and that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, was so quick off the mark and put down this Unstarred Question on the report so very soon after its publication. There was an urgent need for this review. The introduction tells us how it was sparked off by a discussion in 1977 between Peter Brinson of the Foundation and Peter Newsom of ILEA; a discussion on the public debate that had been opened on education, and in particular because of references to the core curriculum and a recurrent emphasis on the three Rs. They were worried that these references seemed to exclude the arts.

The committee was set up at the end of 1978, and as it worked the economic situation imposed further economies on local authorities. The School Curriculum issued in March 1981 showed a concern that schools should respond to the changing social and economic circumstances. It gave a list of six broad educational aims with which one could not possibly disagree, but apart from the sixth, to help pupils to appreciate human achievements and aspirations, the arts got no mention at all. This was typical of other statements being made.

The continuing cuts in education expenditure do bear heavily on arts subjects, as some materials, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, has said, are cheap, but some are very expensive, like musical instruments, and some authorities seem to look on art and music as mere frills. These cuts are having effects on the quality and range of education as well as on its provision. The introduction to the report gives plenty of evidence for this, and HMI's report on The Effects of Local Authority Expenditure Policies on the Educational Service in England 1981, out only today—and I am grateful for a copy landing on my desk at lunchtime—provides plenty more evidence of this.

In over one-third of authorities", the HMI report says, and especially in the shire counties, inspectors report changes in the curriculum for secondary school pupils in the form of reduction in the range of courses offered". Music, and particularly instrumental music, is mentioned again and again. Too few appropriately qualified staff are mentioned; most frequently in craft design and technology, history, art and design. Sometimes craft and design have vanished altogether from the curriculum.

The Gulbenkian Report is to be welcomed as it aims to redress the balance. It stresses the great importance of the arts in everyone's school life, and it is high time that the balance was redressed.

I think in the concern at the huge numbers of the young unemployed there has been a great deal said about the schools needing to prepare young people for the world of work and to give them qualifications that will satisfy possible employers. As the report says, In the secondary schools a premium is often placed on exam courses and academic qualifications. We believe this emphasis to be misplaced". And so do I, and I believe from what he said that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, would agree with that. A little later it says: Literacy and numeracy are an important part of education. They should not be mistaken for it". HMIs in their Aspects of Secondary Education 1979 said exactly the same thing. They went on to say that both literacy and numeracy seemed to improve when taught as part of a broad curriculum.

This report is pleading for that broader curriculum. It is attempting to have the arts accepted as an integral part of the whole.

The arts should permeate the whole curriculum", it says. It is odd that over 20 years ago, when things were pretty good compared with now, at a conference called A Consideration of Humanity, Technology and Education, Sir Herbert Read deplored the increasing specialisation of education. He said: In our own time that divisive process has been elaborated and legalised into a rigid structure of vocational education. The ideal of education is no longer the development of the whole man". Summing up at the end of that conference, H. J. Blackham said: We believe that neither the contribution of the arts to general education, nor the place of general education in the national life, has yet been properly recognised, and we want to form a body of enlightened opinion drawn from all walks of life which will bring general public opinion to share our conviction, and to see our vision of the role of the arts in general education and the role of general education in the life of our industrial mass society". This, say the authors of the report, is a motto for them.

I was talking to a retired HMI for arts at the week-end and he had seen this report. He said that what it had in it is what he had been trying to preach and get over all the years he had been working. There is perhaps nothing very new in the report. Maybe it is a little disappointing for that reason, but if messages do not get received the only thing is to go on sending them until at last they penetrate, and we hope that the message in this report will penetrate.

The report makes a strong plea for prevailing attitudes to the arts to be changed: Many administrators, head teachers, parents, teachers and pupils have failed to see the value of the arts; in many cases we believe because of their own indifferent experiences of them at school. This pattern of indifference must be broken". The report stresses that it is dealing with the value of the arts in all schools for all children. This is very important: all children, not just those with special talents. It asks for better co-ordination and continuity in arts education. There is too little contact, it says, between teachers working in the different arts and little co-ordination between the three main sectors of education: primary, secondary, and tertiary.

Among the valuable and excellent practical suggestions in Chapter 4 on provision in the primary schools—which both the authors of the report and HMI found disappointing, teachers' expectations of their pupils often being too low—is one that in the record and profile that is passed on to the secondary schools there should be a section on the pupil's artistic abilities and achievemnts, so there would be a greater understanding of the whole child by those who would be taking him on in the next phase—a point which the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, also picked on. I am glad the Schools Council is sponsoring a research project on pupil profiles, and I hope that that will appear before long because it seems to me to be the way forward.

I hope the Government will pay heed to the comments on teachers and teacher training. There is no doubt that there is not enough emphasis on art training in the training colleges. I shall rashly and tentatively comment on what is taught—as the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has special knowledge of this subject, I would say I am perhaps being somewhat rash. I suspect there is too much theory and not enough practice. I was glad to see that there is a recommendation that the DES should undertake a survey to examine what now remains of the provision for initial training of teachers in the arts, paying particular attention to the balance between and the relationship of practical and theoretical courses. Students should get out much more into the schools. The HMI asked for more specialist teachers in primary schools, and I wish to urge that. It is unlikely, indeed probably impossible, for the class teacher to be equally capable of covering the three Rs, physical education and all the possible arts—music, dance, drama, drawing, painting and so on. Well trained, practically trained specialist teachers are needed, peripatetic some of them may well have to be. As in all schools, I guess the attitude and influence of the head is vital. It would be nice, as is suggested in the report, if heads of art, drama or music departments were sometimes appointed as heads of schools; they might manage to get the prevailing atmosphere changed.

I wish to comment on paragraphs 75 and 76–75 on "Availability: a resource bank"; and 76 on "Accessibility; the ethos of the schools". Paragraph 75 says that the stimuli for creative activity are plentiful and that the school needs to make them available. It suggests stones, fossils, bones, owl pellets, claws, feathers, coral, crab cases, driftwood, ball bearings, cogs, scrap metal and so on. Excellent, and they are all for free; they can be found and it is very good for the pupils to have to go out and find them.

Paragraph 76 says how important display is, but I do not think it puts quite enough emphasis on that. It encourages the display of children's work but, in my view, does not make enough of the whole school environment. If the aim of education in the visual arts is to ensure the development of visual awareness and the appreciation of colour, shape, form, line, texture, pattern, design and craftsmanship—in one word, aesthetics—of all pupils, one of the ways to achieve that is through the appearance of the school environment, which should be colourful and made attractive and interesting by the careful display of exhibits of various kinds, such as plants and other natural material, pictures, sculpture, mural decorations, wood, metal or clay objects, embroideries and fabric hangings as well as found objects, such as I have quoted, of particular interest, and through a rich, varied and ever-changing background in the work areas to provide inspiration for practical work. The ever-changing matters; people do not pay attention to something they see every day. It needs to be constantly altering.

In encouraging appreciation and interest in the arts through the environment of the school, I wonder how many authorities still have a picture fund whereby the art adviser had a sum he could spend every year on pictures, usually by living artists, partly because they were cheaper and partly of course as an encouragement to living artists. Such pictures or sculptures, or whatever they might be, made up a collection from which schools could borrow and have an always changing display on their walls. I believe that was valuable. In the days when I visited many schools as a member of an education committee, I always thought I could tell the sort of school I was visiting by the impression I got from the entrance and corridors; a good visual impact usually meant a good and lively school.

I turn to what is, to me, a most important chapter, Chapter 7 which deals with special needs. The writers of the report choose four groups for whom they think special measures may be necessary if the arts are to make their full contribution to the education of those children. They are the specially gifted, the disabled, those with learning difficulties and those who belong to racial minorities. Where highly talented pupils are concerned—those who show special ability in any art form and who may wish to go on to further education and/or training—there will be a need to go more deeply into aesthetics and craftsmanship. It is often found that teachers enjoy teaching the more gifted pupils and are prepared to go to great lengths to help them to become sensitive, creative people who can produce work of real quality. But outside help may also be necessary.

The Gulbenkian Foundation has produced reports on Going on the Stage, Training Musicians and Dance Education, and we are grateful for those. And this is the point at which to speak of the National Youth Orchestra, the National Youth Theatre and the National Festival of Youth Dance. All need support because our most gifted children in the arts need stimulation by meeting others of like ability. Are the Government committed to that support? The orchestra, the theatre and the festival will flourish only in so far as they receive encouragement from the department, Ministers, local authorities and devoted advisers and teachers who are willing often to give up their Saturdays to teaching and encouraging.

I hope very much that the Minister can tell us that the Secretary of State and the department will not let all those excellent things ebb away. A lead must come from the top. As a nation, I suspect we have been readier to look for and help the exceptionally gifted in sport. I hope we can be as generous to those gifted in the arts. Consider what, in the end, the nation gains; our international reputation for productions of opera, our Royal Ballet and the National Shakespeare Company, which have worldwide tours and successes and are a tremendous tourist attaction, too.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, would the noble Baroness agree that our cathedral choirs and the wonderful tradition particularly of boys singing—and they are trained in special private schools—is something which is the envy of Europe? She did not mention that when speaking of the opera. They started long before the Arts Council was ever heard of.

Baroness David

I agree, my Lords, that our choirs, and some of the cathedral choirs—I appreciate, of course, that they are trained in special schools—are of tremendous benefit to the nation, and I know that the choirs of St. John's School, Cambridge, and King's Choir School have travelled all over the world to sing. I think that music has to have special attention; I would grant that.

I have spoken about the first group—the gifted. I now turn to the second group, the disabled, and I am glad to say that, with Warnock, the authors of the report think that these children should be integrated in the ordinary schools. I use the term "disabled" to cover many types of children; not only the physically disabled, and those in wheelchairs, who need special provision, but also disturbed children, for whom music and painting can perform miracles. The report gives examples, touching examples I thought, of how difficult, unresponsive children had been brought out of their shells and into active participation in the group by acting, and how their truancy from school had consequently been stopped.

When I was in Belfast six weeks or so ago I was very moved when I went to see a YOP drama course. There were 17- and 18-year olds taking part. Some of them had been delinquent, and of course they were all unemployed. They were practising, in fairly tatty surroundings, for a street drama. But they were so lively, they had such good teachers, and they were so unselfconscious that it impressed upon me how good drama can be for those children who are perhaps not getting on well in school in the ordinary way, as we think of it. I wondered whether perhaps unemployed actors could help with drama courses, particularly with the YOP courses; though that is not exactly what we are talking about tonight.

It is difficult to draw a line between the disturbed and those with learning difficulties, who are the third group mentioned in Chapter 7. Both groups can be helped wonderfully by teachers in the arts departments. It is, I believe, becoming more and more certain that music can help the dyslexic and those with speech difficulties. A number of very interesting experiments are going on, and there is no doubt that the inarticulate can become very expressive with paint.

The fourth group are those who belong to racial minorities. There are concentrations of over 20 per cent. of immigrant children in a number of local education authorities, and sometimes as many as 50 per cent., or even more. Yet—and I quote from a paper prepared by the Commission for Racial Equality: The presence in such numbers of children from ethnic minorities, who very often had extreme contrasting culture, was not considered to warrant any consideration with regard to general curriculum development in the schools. Their needs were seen merely in terms of (i) intense language exposure, and (ii) behavioural correction under the guise of educational subnormality The report—The Arts in Schools—emphasises not only how important it is for appropriate cultural provision to be made for these pupils, but also how important it is for all students and all staff in our schools to have that provision and to understand the cultures of the racial minorities, and thereby bridge gaps. Out of that understanding of another culture can come a richness and diversity of artistic resources and a broadening of opportunity. In schools and in curricula where the arts are not highly regarded, the art forms of non-Europeans are likely to suffer most. But what riches there are if only advantage is taken of them! Many schools are doing very well. I visited a school in North London 10 days ago, and in one class I looked in on a dozen or so children, mostly black, were having a lovely time with a steel band. They certainly could have done with more space, but they were really enjoying themselves and making a gorgeous rhythmic sound.

So I hope that when the Minister replies we shall hear that the special needs of the racial minorities are receiving particular attention where education in the arts is concerned, and that the richness and diversity of the many cultures are going to be made use of. I hope, too, that the report can be drawn to the attention of the Youth Service Review, which is now taking place, and that the review can concentrate on it a little, and say what it is going to do about the arts.

Above all, we want to know whether the Secretary of State and the department are going to respond positively to the report and give it real support, not merely lip service. Are they going to listen to the HMI Report, which is out today, and which is asking for a great deal more for the arts, particularly for music. Are the arts to have their proper place in the curriculum and an equal status with other major areas? Most particularly, are resources going to be made available?—because without a proper allocation of resources the commitment will mean absolutely nothing.

9.13 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Lord Elton)

My Lords, this is indeed an important report, and a timely one. It is published as local education authorities and schools in England and Wales are reviewing their policies for the school curriculum. I believe that it will be widely read and will influence thinking, and that it will do so deservedly. The same may also be true of this debate, and I am sure there will be many outside this House, as well as in it, who will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, for introducing it. I would join with him in sending my sympathetic good wishes to my noble friend Lord Eccles, whose contribution would have done so much to increase the value of this occasion.

The report itself makes a cogent case for a secure place for the arts in the school curriculum. This is reflected, as the noble Baroness has rightly said, in the report from the Inspectorate, which reached her desk and mine today. The point that the report was anxious to drive home—I am speaking now of the Inspectorate's report—was that schools and local education authorities have to plan sensibly for the curriculum as a whole in order to avoid reductions in important areas such as the arts. This is the message also of the White Paper, the discussion paper, The School Curriculum, and the Government's Circular 6/81, which was issued last October.

The noble Baroness raised a number of points, to some of which I shall return. One of them which caught my ear, perhaps out of context, appeared to be that she felt that students in teacher-training colleges should get out more into the schools. My recollection of teaching in a teacher-training college is that it would be difficult for them to do so for the reasons of the administration of the courses and the dispersal of the supervising staff, but that a very great deal of their time certainly was, and I believe still is, spent in the schools. It may just be that the number of students studying the subjects in which the noble Baroness is interested is relatively small and that she does not encounter them, perhaps, as frequently as might otherwise be the case.

Returning to the report which is the subject of this debate, many noble Lords will have been impressed, as was I, by the quality of the argument, particularly in the early chapters of the report, which deal with the contribution of the arts in education and with the nature of creativity. There is room for debate about the weight which might be attached to particular considerations in this as in other areas of the curriculum, but for my part I believe the report makes a fundamental point when it explains that the committee of inquiry are not just pressing for the arts for their own sake—and I quote: Our concern is broader—with the development of those basic human qualities and capabilities, including the power of creative insight and activity and a concern with relationships and questions of value, which give rise to the arts in the first place". In other words, I agree, as do the Government, that literacy and numeracy are not the only constituents of a proper and full education.

The school curriculum is first and foremost the responsibility of local education authorities and schools themselves; the Government cannot and, indeed, should not dictate what they should do. However, we have issued guidance for England and Wales in The School Curriculum, to which I have already referred, which was published last year. This makes specific reference to the need for subjects like art, music and drama to permit pupils to avail themselves of opportunities for enriching their personal experience; it identifies aesthetic subjects as an essential part of the primary school curriculum; and it makes it quite clear that pupils should retain opportunities for aesthetic activity up to the end of their compulsory schooling.

I believe that the authors of the Gulbenkian Report are wrong—and I think that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, agrees with me in this—in concluding that the absence of detailed discussion of the arts in the Government's guidance is an indication of indifference on the Government's part, or that it will be taken as such by local education authorities and schools. But lest there be any doubt, let me make it quite clear now that the Government fully accept the case that the arts are not merely a desirable but an essential component of the education offered in schools. This means not only fostering the talents of the artistically gifted, important as that is, but providing opportunities for all pupils—and the noble Baroness I think emphasised this—at appropriate stages of their school careers, to participate in artistic activity and to learn about the arts.

There are, of course, schools and local education authorities—and they have been mentioned this evening—where the arts already play a prominent role in curriculum thinking and planning, and others which enjoy a high reputation in particular arts subjects. The report gives examples of good practice, and it also tackles squarely the obstacles to be overcome before such practice can be extended more widely.

In the primary schools, it rightly draws attention to the findings of Her Majesty's Inspectors that a broader curriculum need not be at the expense of achievement in the basic skills of reading, writing and mathematics. Quite the contrary: the evidence suggests that children do better in these skills when they can be practised and extended through a wider range of work.

Talking about performance, the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, was kind enough to give notice to somebody of a question and that notice sufficed for the occasion. I can say in reply that the Assessment of Performance Unit of the Department of Education and Science did indeed have an exploratory group on the assessment of aesthetic development. This group completed its work and submitted a report last year. It is now being considered by the unit; and the report I understand makes recommendations for the assessment of children's work in the arts and sets out the group's model for assessment, which they consider could be applied to all arts subjects. No decisions have yet been taken on publication or on the case that the report makes for assessment in this field because it is still being considered. As to the particular exploratory group, it completed its work and for that reason it has closed down.

Many class teachers lack confidence in their own ability to teach effectively in the creative subjects. The same is very often true in science, which has also been neglected in many primary schools. The report's recommendations for the appointment of teacher leaders, co-ordinators or consultants and for greater encouragement and support for teachers are similar to methods already being used to improve the teaching of science. Her Majesty's Inspectorate's report Primary Education in England called for greater use of teacher consultants in primary schools. We hope, therefore, that teachers and those involved in primary schools will talk through these conclusions, and consider how far they are practicable in their own areas and their own schools. There is a limit to the number of teacher consultants that can be appointed and also the size of school in which they are appropriate. We cannot expect change to occur overnight. But I believe that close consideration or this proposal will prove to be fruitful.

At secondary school level, the report's authors make a number of interesting suggestions, which again need to be talked through. I believe they are right to draw attention to the fact that, if authorities and schools adopt a piecemeal approach to coping with the effects of falling schools rolls and of expenditure reductions, the arts are vulnerable. The Government's policy is designed to encourage them to plan the curriculum as a whole, so as to ensure that pupils are not deprived of opportunities in all the main areas of experience.

Many teachers, as the report points out, do not necessarily have the knowledge or experience to participate confidently in curriculum planning and policy-making beyond their own subject specialisms. It is important that they whould see this as part of their professional responsibility. Everybody knows his own subject; you have to become more senior before you are involved in time-tabling subjects other than your own, and relatively appreciably more senior before you recognise the effect of balance between the subjects and the way that balance is affected by your decisions. The planning of a curriculum is a specialised pursuit and it is important that teachers should see this as part of their professional responsibility. Whatever support the Government and local authorities may give—and their contribution is clearly important—the strength of the arts in education depends on the ability of heads of schools and their staff in individual schools to develop an ethos within which they can flourish, and to arrange timetables and the allocation of resources in such a way as to encourage effective teaching.

What a wealth of resources the noble Baroness read out. Whether the school in question was in a belfry or on the beach, I could not discover; but there was a limitless supply of materials; and the world is made up of arts material for those who know how to use them, Picasso was perhaps the first to show. But one must not fall into the trap of thinking that because a subject deserves curricular time, it can displace others which also deserve it. The school timetable is limited and the time allocation between subjects has to be a compromise. The point is that the compromise should be intelligent and suited to the needs of each pupil.

I was particularly interested to read the report's views on the need for co-operation in matters of policy among specialists in the different art forms, and its rather brief reference to what it calls "third sessions", by which it means the important role of voluntary extra-curricular activities in promoting interest in the arts. These are important matters, not often discussed in this context. The view of teachers on them will be of great interest. I hope this report will be widely discussed among teachers and not only teachers whose primary or only interest is in teaching art.

The authors of the report have made in all 32 recommendations—too many for me to deal with in detail this evening. Many are rightly directed at local education authorities, but I wonder if I may pick out one or two where the Government are playing, or can play, a part. I am pleased to see, for example, the report's support for the use of profile reports in schools. I do not see developments in this field as being restricted to the arts. I see a strong case for some form of pupil profile, or record of achievement, for all school-leavers and probably in all subjects. Such records are, in our view, potentially useful, not only as an aid to selection for employment or further and higher education, but to provide an incentive for young people in their later years of compulsory education, and as a means of recognising achievements and qualities which cannot be assessed in formal examinations. The noble Baroness and other noble Lords emphasised earlier tonight that an examination can be a very useful framework; it can also be a very dangerous straitjacket. Therefore this is an area of considerable importance.

What would we see forming a part of records of achievement? They might include evidence of educational attainment, and that by no means need be only examination achievements. I think it important that some reference be made to an individual's level of ability in basic skills, at least of numeracy and communication skills. But there would be scope for evidence on a broader front, where this was thought appropriate by the school or individual concerned. They should also include references to other achievements, whether or not these took place in school or in the wider community. And they should reflect an individual's personal qualities: punctuality, enthusiasm, imagination, sociability. We could all add to the list of qualities which we would find it helpful to know about.

It is in that kind of document that the arts could figure. It is clear to me that there would be ample scope here for schools and pupils to give free range to a record of their achievements and interests in the arts and this could extend to appreciation as well as to performance. I believe that it is important to tutor the eye as well as the hand in the arts.

The report asks for a full investigation. There are already useful initiatives being taken in various parts of the country by schools and LEAs. Some work is in hand in the Schools Council. I believe that more needs to be done before progress can be made on the wider scale which we would wish to see. The Government are already considering the way in which this might be tackled.

It is perhaps unfortunate that relatively little space is devoted to the enormous potential of the ethnic minority arts in our midst for enriching the experience of all children. I was interested and sympathetic to the way that the noble Baroness, Lady David, devoted proportionately more of her speech to the subject than the report did to its own reflections.

The points are there, but I should like to see them given more prominence, so that all teachers who read this report—and I hope many will—will be prompted to consider whether their approach to the arts excludes whole areas of our mutual cultural heritage. This is, of course, a matter which bears on the whole curriculum, and many noble Lords will know that the question of education in a multiracial society is one to which the Government are giving careful consideration in the light of a number of recent reports. I remind your Lordships of the Swan Report, the Home Affairs Committee's report on Racial Disadvantage, the Scarman Report, and the Report of the Education, Science and Arts Committee. There may be here a whole untapped well of talent. As the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, said in a most interesting contribution, the arts provide a channel for communication at a depth not always reached by those who articulate and express themselves in the more conventional and examinable forms.

An especially interesting section of the report is that which deals with practising artists and education. No one would oppose the suggestion that there should be co-operation between arts funding bodies and education authorities, and that contacts between children and artists should be fostered—often with surprising result. There is already a good deal of commitment and co-operation on both sides, between arts bodies and the education service. Improving co-operation is not simply a question of the level of resources, but of ensuring that they are used sensibly and to maximum effect.

On one particular point, the examples of good practice cited in the report concentrate mainly on the performing arts in schools. Although the report does not devote a great deal of attention to the contribution which museums and galleries can make to the teaching, the understanding, the practice and the love of art, I am sure noble Lords would agree that we should not overlook this aspect. I regret that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, is not present to contribute his great experience in this field to this debate.

The museums and galleries of this country are the repositories of many of our national artistic treasures and a source of pride and joy to us all. But these institutions are not static, and they are not passive. Not only do their collections expand but their staff devote their energy and skill to interesting displays, to stimulating programmes of special exhibitions and to the production of catalogues, brochures and written material of all kinds. Above all, in the context of this debate, they devote themselves not only to informing and educating us all in the broad sense of that term but also to serving the schools. I should like to see more made of that.

Baroness David

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord will allow me to ask one question which I had intended to raise earlier. This concerns the slides from the Victoria and Albert Museum. There was trouble and it was thought that the whole service was going to stop. I am not quite sure what the latest news is. After what the noble Lord has said about museums, it would be very interesting if we could hear what is happening.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I will endeavour to bring that into my closing remarks. I began that passage with a reference to the performing arts and that reminds me of the other point put by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, of which he gave some advanced warning. I think I can reassure him on this by saying that some 45 institutions offer drama as an option within initial teacher training. Provisional estimates for the 1981 admissions suggest that about 300 students entered either postgraduate or undergraduate initial teacher training courses with drama as a secondary specialist subject. A further as yet unknown number are pursuing drama in the context of training for primary schools. Part-time or full-time in-service training courses in drama for teachers were offered in the current academic year at some 13 institutions with a total enrolment of over 150 students; so I think that the thing looks a great deal more healthy than perhaps the noble Lord feared.

Noble Lords might think it understandable that during this period when public expenditure and public service manpower must come under review, the museums and galleries education services were themselves to be looked at closely. I am confident, however, that wherever such scrutiny may take place the value of the services offered will certainly not be lost from view.

The final sections of the report are concerned with the contribution which can be made by the arts funding bodies, the media, the youth service and teacher training. I must say something about the Government's policy towards the youth service and the role of the voluntary youth organisations, because I believe the report paints an inaccurate national picture in Section 236 in describing the service as one suffering from neglect, expenditure cuts, dwindling support and a loss of adolescent participants.

The Government attach a high priority to the informal social education of young people, and therefore to the youth service. Indeed, even during this period of financial restraint we have taken the view that expenditure on the youth service should be maintained, and have taken steps to help local authorities to do so. This is reflected in the recent rate support grant settlements. The grants made centrally by the Department of Education and Science towards the headquarters expenditure of the national voluntary youth organisations have also been maintained. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the voluntary youth organisations who are making a significant and vital contribution towards the wellbeing of our young people in these difficult times. The report, I think, does a little less than justice here.

It is fair to say that the service has adapted significantly in recent years to meet present-day requirements. The balance of provision has swung heavily towards work with the older age groups, and particularly with the young unemployed. For example, I understand that the National Association of Youth Clubs alone has about 300,000 members aged 16-plus. To sum up, I do not accept, as the report implies, that the youth service is wasting away through neglect. We look forward to receiving the report of the review group on the youth service this summer and shall be giving careful consideration to their recommendations.

The report makes a particular recommendation that the National Youth Bureau should consider establishing a standing conference for the arts in the youth service. Although the National Youth Bureau receives substantial help from the Government, it is an independent body which reaches its own conclusions on which activities to support through its council and its executive committee. I cannot, therefore, answer for it or say how far the bureau would see an appropriate role for itself in supporting the arts. However, I can say that several national voluntary youth organisations already have well-established activities relating to the arts. In addition, many arts-orientated activities provided by the youth service are funded at local level.

I should like, in conclusion, to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, for drawing the attention of this House to the report. Where the recommendations make claims for additional resources, progress may well be constrained by the overriding need to control public expenditure. But there is much in the report which is not dependent on increased expenditure by local education authorities, and I hope that they will give the recommendations addressed to them the very fullest consideration. For their part, the Government have noted those recommendations where they are called upon to take the lead, and will be considering these carefully in the context of their educational policies as a whole.

The noble Baroness hoped for an immediate commitment on numbers of specific issues. It is too early for that. It is, indeed, too early for a response to the report of the inspectorate, which we have only just received. But I can say that I am sure that in these considerations my colleagues in the Department of Education and Science will take note of the sage and worthy views expressed by noble Lords today. I will be writing to the noble Baroness about the slides, which fall within the purview of my honourable friend the Minister for the Arts and not directly of the Department of Education and Science.