The pupil premium is additional government funding given to schools so that they can support their disadvantaged pupils and close the attainment gap between them and their peers. Whilst there is mounting pressure on teachers to spend this funding on extra resources or support for core academic subjects, such as English and Maths, I would encourage schools to spend it on arts and cultural education. Here's why.
I strongly believe the arts have the power to transform lives. The earlier a child's engagement with the arts, the more likely they are to develop vital skills such as communication, analysis, confidence and teamwork. These skills can help pupils better engage with the mainstream curriculum, stimulating their own creativity and critical faculties and can help them to break the cycle of deprivation.
Throughout The Prince's Foundation for Children & the Arts' Start programme, which reaches out to disadvantaged pupils and creates sustainable partnerships between their schools and local cultural venues, we asked teachers about the positive correlation they have seen between arts education and academic achievement.
89% of teachers responding to the 2011/12 survey agreed that Start had had a positive impact on their pupils' academic skills and 100% said that Start had a positive effect on pupils' communication and personal skills. Around half said they have observed improvements in literacy and reasoning whilst more than 90% reported noticeable improvements in their pupils' team work and creative thinking skills.
These results help prove that arts and cultural education can truly inspire children academically and creatively, giving them the skills to become better learners and therefore more capable of applying the knowledge they acquire to improve the results of core curriculum subjects.
There are many demands on the pupil premium and I do not expect that schools will able to allocate all, or even most of it, to arts education, but using a part of the pupil premium to expand the cultural horizons of less advantaged pupils will prove to be money very well spent indeed.