It has been increasingly difficult for young people to access arts and culture. School art provisions are declining rapidly. The total estimated cost spent in England and Wales on educational art services for 2016/2017 is projected to fall another 13 percent from 2015.
As a result, there has been a decline in English children becoming involved in art subjects, a reduction in art teaching hours and fewer art teachers employed in schools. Informal programs have also suffered due to local authority cuts.
The Cultural Learning Alliance (CLA) exists to address these issues. The alliance is a collective voice working to ensure that all children have meaningful access to cultural programs. Its goals are to advocate for a coherent national strategy for cultural learning, to unite the education, youth and cultural sectors, to showcase projects and demonstrate why cultural learning is so important.
The CLA first published the Imagine Nation report in 2011 to set the agenda for a national conversation about the value of cultural learning. The following statistics were included in the 2017 version of the report and outline the benefits of cultural learning:
- Participation in structured arts activities can increase cognitive abilities by 17 percent.
- Students from low-income families who take part in arts activities at school are three times more likely to graduate. These students are also 20 percent more likely to vote as young adults.
- Studying art subjects increases the likelihood of students maintaining employment.
- People who take part in the arts are 38 percent more likely to report good health.
- Employability of students who study arts subjects is higher.
David Puttnam, the chairman of the CLA, has described the report as a wake-up call to boost cultural learning in England. “It is essential that access to arts is a right and not a privilege,” he says.
Similarly, Michelle Obama has stated that “Arts education…is the air many of these kids breathe. It’s how we get kids excited about getting up and going to school in the morning. It’s how we get them to take ownership of their future.”
The Imagine Nation report has resulted in a “call to arms” to boost cultural learning in England. According to the report, “we must act now to ensure that the next generation is given all the tools it needs to build a stronger, healthier society.”
– Liliana Rehorn