Mike Leigh blasts ‘totally illogical’ arts provision

Art should be compulsory for students up to the age of 16 in order to restore its place as a “core” subject and prevent it from being regarded as an “indulgence”, according to award-winning film director Mike Leigh.

He warned that art, and drawing in particular, had been relegated to little more than a “marginal, minority, specialist” subject in schools.

Leigh, who directed hit films such as Secrets and Lies and Mr Turner, is the latest figure to argue for the arts to be given greater prominence in the curriculum. Last year, half the 172 schools surveyed by the National Society for Education in Art and Design said they had experienced cuts to arts provision as a result of greater focus being placed on English Baccalaureate subjects.

Earlier this year, a commission led by the University of Warwick warned that the arts were being “squeezed out” of schools and that pupils from low-income families were the worst affected. It recommended that an arts or media subject should be included in the EBac.

The Oscar-nominated director made the comments last week at an awards ceremony for schools, community groups and museums that had taken part in the Big Draw international festival of drawing. Speaking after the event Leigh told TES the idea that artists should be regarded as a “privileged group” was “ridiculous”.

“Art should be a core subject of all subjects, like English is, but even more so,” he said.

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