Institute of Education


What if... we placed greater value on arts education in our schools system?

27 May 2021, 5:45 pm–6:45 pm

IOE Debates arts education. Photo of colourful arts and crafts materials on a table

What developments have done most to erode engagement in the arts in school and what impact can we expect the Covid disruptions to have?

Event Information

Open to





Kate Thomas

Watch the debate

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHigJ9BoeJs


SoundCloud Widget Placeholderhttps://soundcloud.com/ioelondon/what-if-we-placed-greater-value-on-arts...


You can also listen to the podcast on:


Arts education, encompassing art, dance, design, drama and music, is widely regarded as vital to a ‘well rounded education’. Alongside the development of particular cognitive skills and aptitudes, studying these subjects has been shown to benefit physical and mental health, the transferable skills that employers increasingly look for, as well as appreciation of difference and diversity.

Yet, various data attest to the shrinking space for arts education, particularly the performing arts, within schools in England, from teacher numbers and hours taught, to exam entries.

The exam figures are especially stark: between 2010 and 2020 the number of arts GCSE and A-level entries fell by a third. Added to this trend is the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on schooling as well as on so many parts of the creative and cultural industries.

With schools focused on ‘catch up’, could the arts be further marginalised, and at a time when young people may have greater need for the studied reflection and expression that arts subjects facilitate?

We wanted to take a look at the longer-term trends and ask:

  • what developments have done most to erode engagement in the arts in school and what impact can we expect the Covid disruptions to have?
  • Can advocacy of arts education reverse the current direction of travel?
  • And what can we learn from schools that are already countering the wider trends?


  • Ed Dorrell, Director of Public First.     
  • Emily Gopaul, primary art specialist and the author of Teaching Primary Art & Design.
  • Isobel Traunter, PhD scholar in the  Helen Hamlyn Centre for Pedagogy (0-11 years) at the IOE.
  • Andria Zafirakou, 2018 Global Teacher Prize Winner and Arts and Textiles teacher at Alperton Community School, London.
  • Chair: Dominic Wyse, Professor of Early Childhood and Primary Education at the IOE.

Find out about the speakers of this debate. Join the conversation on Twitter at #IOEDebates


In association with TES