Cuts to arts subjects will affect the next generation of artists

19th May 2021

This week has been bittersweet. We have been high on celebrations of theatres reopening and with signs that our industry is finally getting back up off its knees. However, we realise that our celebrations may be short lived following the government’s proposal of cutting arts subjects across higher education by 50%

For the last 14 months our industry has been in jeopardy. We have haemorrhaged a huge amount of talent, theatres have lost huge amounts of money, some have closed, and a huge percentage of our workforce have been left with no help or support - all because the UK government didn’t think the ats were a priority. 

This is the industry that at the last count in 2016 brings over £10.8bn to the UK economy. You can read more about this in a previous blog post.

The Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, suggests that the funding from the Office for Students (the independent regulator of higher education in England) would be halved for students studying courses at university, including drama and performing arts, music, dance, media studies and art and design. The cuts would save around £20m and could come in as early as this autumn.

In his own words, Mr Williamson says: "The OfS should reprioritise funding towards the provision of high-cost, high-value subjects … We would then potentially seek further reductions in future years".

Only last September did we write about the decline of arts GCSEs and A levels due to the exclusion of arts subjects of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) in 2010, to focus on traditional ‘core/academic’ subjects. 

There are now less opportunities for young people to study arts subjects at school, and now with this proposal they won’t have the chance to do so at university.

Having access to the arts is absolutely vital to us all, particularly from a young age. It enriches our lives, brings creativity into all we do, adds value and contributes to our learning by providing us with key skills such as communication, discipline, concentration and self-esteem. There are so many positives that come out of the arts.

As I have said before, some children may not be able to sit still and concentrate during a maths class, but they come alive on the stage. We all have different skills and abilities - STEM subjects are not for everyone and nor should they be. Art and creative opportunities cannot be taken away from the classroom.

As Lyn Gardner quite rightly says in her recent opinion piece in The Stage: "Besides, at a time when many young people are facing a mental-health crisis, why wouldn’t we want them to engage in an activity that can improve their well-being?"

She also mentions that "private schools pour money into arts facilities and teaching; it is because the elite recognise the value of arts education and the edge it gives their offspring".

Why don't all schools do this? Why are not all children given an equal chance?

Jarvis Cocker (Pulp) said in The Guardian that the proposal would put off those from lower socio-economic backgrounds and leave arts subjects as the preserve of wealthy domestic and foreign students’, and stated the arts are "about mixing with people with different ideas, and then you get this cross pollination of stuff that makes things happen".

Public Campaign for the Arts has already launched a petition, ‘Arts Education Matters’, which calls for the government to commit to “proper funding for higher education providers to continue to deliver world-leading arts courses”. There have so far been an incredible 160,610 signatures. Why not add yours to the list?

We have already lost so many talented individuals. With these proposed cuts to art subjects, how are we to grow our industry and encourage the next generation of artists from all backgrounds to join our industry? How are we to be diverse and inclusive if arts subjects are not available to all?  Arts should be a priority and seen as a high value subject. We need investment and we need it now.