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Wednesday 2nd
posted by Morning Star in Features

Education cuts mean we are losing the intrinsic value of the arts, writes an ANONYMOUS TEACHER

IF STAFF morale were given an Ofsted rating it would be slumped at the “needs improvement” end of the scale.

We have the prospect of further swingeing cuts next year and are left wondering how on Earth can things get any worse? But obviously they can.

Teachers are having to do more and more with less and less to defend their jobs and the education service.

Certain curriculum areas are under direct threat and we have therefore to justify our position within the curriculum — and we do that by doing more and more. The demand on teachers has never been more acute with more performances, more interventions, more initiatives and more high-profile activities.

We are almost lost in a vortex of desperate “attention-seeking” to guard against the inevitable conversation that will come.

Budgets will have to be made according to what we have got and what we have got is becoming less and less. The priorities therefore will have to take precedence. That which is culturally enriching will be pushed to the margins and left almost as a quaint and naive reminder of the way things used to be before.

In my view, the question of how all this can be allowed to happen is preceded by the question of how far does this reflect the values of an unequal and divided society in its fundamental core?

We in the arts departments are plagued by a self-conscious commentary on how we can truly be an important part of the education package.

We are forever having to frame what we do to signpost how the arts will help in the world of work: drama will give you the confidence to speak to a large group of your colleagues and music will help your child to concentrate and develop certain brain functions. It’s getting more tenuous.

The place in the results league table, the awards ceremonies, the gloss, the Ofsted rating that never changes, all of these factors play to the perception that this school is the antidote to poverty, the belief that Britain is a place where you can rise up the social order and that we, as trusted upright pillars of wisdom, will hold your hand in that journey to redemption, to utopia.

It seems there is no mention of a wider cultural awareness or development.

Children are widely kept at home during weekends and holidays. Social media and the internet are a well-used window on the world. Parents are preoccupied in long hours, low-paid employment, accepting of their role in their children’s journey to success. No suggestion that the NHS too is on its knees, or that house prices are simply way beyond what anyone can afford, or that tuition fees are saddling graduates with thousands of pounds of debt or, of course, that there is any guaranteed job at the end of it all.

So at school the reality of those budget cuts are clear. Our worst nightmares are coming true and we are sleepwalking into a very different world.

A world where only those who can afford music lessons have them; where special needs children are herded together as there are not enough support staff to fully integrate them within the school; where class sizes are increasing and the number of classes cut as there are not enough staff to teach them.

I believe that this is only the beginning. Schools will be forced to cater for the lowest common denominator.

The gloss will win in the end. We, the eternal optimists, may push what we believe to be important but the wider education of what society could be, of how we truly improve the lot of the struggling majority will not be helped by serving up a diet of values, born out of desperation and poverty.

The world’s institutions have already seen that one off a long time ago.

We now live in a world where the corporations have our lives sewn up and escape from it seems a rare thing indeed.