DISPROPORTIONATE: The widening gap between white and BME children playing music is ‘very worrying’, says Labour’s Harriet Harman
LABOUR HAS blamed the government for a sharp reduction in the number of black and minority ethnic (BME) children taking part in music, dance, theatre and drama.
This follows a revelation by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s Taking Part survey that there was an overall decrease in the number of primary school children involved in arts subject, as well as a disproportionate impact on BME students.
In the period 2009/10, there was a 44 per cent decrease in the number of BME students taking music, compared to a 32 per cent drop for their white counterparts; and in theatre and drama, the reduction was 41 per cent for BME pupils and 31 per cent for white students.
The disparity was also evident in dance with 51 per cent less BME students involved in activities while the decline was 32 per cent for white pupils.
Steve Woodward, from London-based arts and cultural programme A New Direction, said: “There are definite inequalities in the city based on social background, particularly in relation to economic factors.
“For example we know that young people on free school meals are less likely to be involved or benefit from the arts and culture at home, and therefore more likely to depend on school for this kind of education and opportunity – a problem when these areas are being squeezed from the curriculum.”
Harriet Harman, Labour’s shadow culture secretary, said engagement in art and culture “is a vital part of a child’s education” and declared that the figures should be a “wake-up call to the government”.
She said: “Schools and many local arts organisations who would provide out-of-school activity for young people have lost support because of the government cuts to local councils. And more than a third of local authorities have reported a drop in afterschool clubs since the elections.”
She added: “The widening gap between white and black and minority ethnic children is very worrying. It is every child’s right to explore their artistic and creative potential – and that shouldn’t depend on your race.”
Harman insisted that Labour will do better and “is committed to opportunity for every child to experience and participate in the arts”.
The findings follow a report in February by Professor Graham Welch from the Institute of Education, which established a link between music activities and improved academic performance, self-concept and social inclusion.
A Department of Education spokesperson said: “It is nonsense to suggest we do not promote the arts either inside or outside school.
“We are determined to help every child develop their creativity. That is why we have invested £340 million to support music and cultural education that will help children to enjoy the arts.
The education department spokesperson added: “In the last month alone we have cut red tape that restricted after-school drama performances and announced an £18 million funding boost for music education. The extra funding will mean thousands more disadvantaged pupils will have access to instruments.”