§ Mr. Lawrence
asked the Minister for the Arts if he will make a statement on the role of arts organisations, including museums and libraries, in education and in particular in the general certificate of secondary education syllabuses.
§ Mr. Luce
I am convinced of the importance of the role that the arts and heritage can play in the provision of education and specifically in the GCSE syllabuses and wider development of the curriculum. This is a major opportunity to be grasped by museums, libraries and performing arts organisations for the future. My discussions with arts organisations around the country have indicated a keen awareness of the role they can play.
I am pleased to have had reports of the very active stance being taken by museums in the public and private sectors towards the GCSE. The facilities which museums and galleries have to offer are highly relevant to the new GCSE syllabuses, and my Department has sought to promote the linkage between museums and the education establishment in order to optimise the use of museums' resources. I welcomed a report by HMI, following a study 546W in the north-west of England, which recommended schools to use museums and art galleries to interest and inspire pupils, and as part of new activity-based syllabus work. My Department, in consultation with HMI, has circulated to the area museum councils practical guidance on the GCSE and their prospective role in new syllabuses. I am delighted to learn that museums have reported a high level of demand from all parts of the country for GCSE-related visits.
In the field of the contemporary arts, a vital opportunity also exists for the arts—drama, literature, music, art and crafts — to play an important role in personal education and within the developing curriculum. The Arts Council, the British Film Institute and the Crafts Council each have education sections concerned to increase awareness in schools and colleges of the importance of the arts. Various schemes exist to bring the arts to education, for instance the project work of the Arts Council and the Regional Arts Associations undertaken in association with educational authorities and individual schools.
The library services also play a major role in meeting the needs of education within schools, colleges, polytechnics and universities, and in the community. Educational institutions, as well as their students and pupils individually, draw upon the services of the public library system. Public libraries also provide information, publicity, accommodation and support materials for a wide range of courses, and the development of the Open University and of open learning and distance learning has made their role even more vital. Within the educational curriculum, the increasing emphasis on resource-based learning and on the acquisition of information skills is placing additional responsibility on the library system, and presents new opportunities to the young and to adults in education to make use of public library facilities.
I am in touch with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education to explore further ways in which the links between arts organisations and education can be strengthened.