Make Dance And Drama Compulsory And Part Of The Ebacc, Says Classic FM's Darren Henley

Pupils should be made to study dance and drama up to the age of 16, amid concerns England's cultural education is still "patchy", a government-commissioned report warned on Tuesday.

The publication warns that there is a "good deal" of concern regarding how much the coalition Government values cultural education in schools and holds the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) partly to blame.

To achieve the EBacc pupils must gain at least a C in English, maths, science, a foreign language and history or geography but does not include other arts subjects such as dance, drama, design or music.

Darren Henley, managing director of Classic FM, was asked to conduct a review of cultural education by ministers in April last year. In his report, Darren Henley, suggests including a "sixth group" within the EBacc to cover these subjects.

The findings, published on Tuesday, say: "There remains a great deal of patchiness in provision of cultural education across England."

It says that while in some places, education in the arts is "truly excellent" in others there is a "real dearth of provision" which needs to be address to bring standards up to a "universally high level" across the country.

The report later addresses cultural education in the school curriculum, warning that these subjects risk being devalued, and losing funding, if they are removed following the current national curriculum review.

Henley also says: "There is a good deal of concern expressed in much of the evidence that I have received during the course of undertaking this review about the extent to which the coalition Government values cultural education in schools.

"The introduction of the English Baccalaureate is a significant contributory factor in causing these concerns.

"There is no suggestion in this review that the learning of cultural education subjects should be placed above the need for every single child to become proficient in reading, writing and mathematics."

The review calls on the Government to underline the importance it places on cultural education, recognising the value of gaining qualifications in these subjects.

It says: "If we are to create a generation of fully rounded individuals, then the Government should consider whether an education in at least one cultural subject (aside from English literature and history) to at least GCSE level should be mandatory.

"This could be achieved through the creation of a sixth grouping of subjects included in the English Baccalaureate. This would include cultural education subjects such as art and design, dance, drama, design technology, film studies and music.

"I would encourage the government to consider this idea when it next reviews the content of the English Baccalaureate.

"A clear signal from the coalition government that cultural education subjects, aside from English literature and history, form an important part of the curriculum, would provide a much needed boost.

"It would also send out a clear message to those schools that are concentrating their financial investment into the subject areas upon which they perceive they are being judged to the exclusion of all others.

"At this stage, it is important to make clear that there has been no central instruction from the Department for Education to make this happen.

"Headteachers and governing bodies are increasingly able to make choices about how their available funds are to be spent."

In its response to Henley's review, the ministers insisted that learning about the nation's culture and playing a part in the cultural life of a school and community is "vital" to developing an identity.

"Enjoying and participating in cultural life should be available to all children and young people: it must not be restricted to those children whose families already participate in cultural activities.

"All children and young people, no matter what their background or family circumstances, should have the opportunity to develop their creativity, their relationship with society and to contribute to the economy in ways that are beneficial to them as individuals and to society," the government responded.

The Henley review has 24 recommendations including setting a minimum level of cultural education that children should receive during their school career.

And it suggests a new cultural education passport scheme for five- to 19-year-olds, which records all of their in and out of school cultural activities.

The review also calls for design to be given greater priority as a curriculum subject and for dance and drama to be seen as subjects in their own right, rather than subsidiaries of PE and English.

Responding to the review, ministers announced they would be setting up the first national youth dance company - another of Henley's recommendations.

There are also plans for an academy for young film-makers, a national network of art and design Saturday clubs, an initiative that will see English Heritage work with schools to explore historical sites in their local areas and proposals for a national plan for cultural education.

Henley said: "All children can and should benefit from receiving a wide-ranging, adventurous and creative cultural education.

"School will inevitably form the most significant part of a child's cultural education. This is particularly the case with children who come from the most deprived backgrounds. In these instances, many of their parents and carers may themselves not have been lucky enough to benefit from a wide-ranging cultural education.

"There is therefore a gap in understanding and experience among the influential adults in these children's lives.

"We need to bridge the divide so that all children, from whatever background, experience the richness of a varied cultural education."

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: "There are some brilliant examples of schools giving their pupils the opportunity to experience the full range of cultural subjects - both in school and outside the classroom - and in many families culture is a part of their everyday lives.

"But this is not always the case. Many children, especially poorer children, do not visit museums or art galleries, or go to concerts or the theatre, with their families.

"That is why we must strengthen what is offered in schools. Cultural education must not be a closed shop for poorer pupils. I want to end any suggestion that high culture is only for the privileged few."