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Tracey Emin, Anish Kapoor, Grayson Perry Protest Arts Exclusion in Schools

An open letter signed by over 100 leading artists including 15 Turner prize-winners says that new UK education policy sidelines arts subjects

Tracey Emin, 2018. Courtesy: Frieze Art Fair

Tracey Emin, 2018. Courtesy: Frieze Art Fair

Tracey Emin, 2018. Courtesy: Frieze Art Fair

104 leading artists have signed an open letter in The Guardian newspaper, criticising the marginalization of the arts in the new English baccalaureate (Ebacc) qualification. Signatories include Tracey Emin, Rachel Whiteread, Anish Kapoor, Jeremy Deller, Grayson Perry and Antony Gormley.

They are demanding that the UK government reconsider this piece of secondary school policy, and warn of the erosion of creative subjects in the state school sector. The Ebacc has made sciences, English, maths, a language and geography or history compulsory in secondary schools – no arts subjects are included. Critics of the measure say that it has diverted attention from art, dance, music or drama. It was conceived in 2010 by the then education secretary Michael Gove.

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The artists’s letter argues that ‘every child should have equal access to the benefits that the arts and culture bring, not just a privileged few,’ and that the policy ‘will seriously damage the future of many young people in this country.’

They claim that the education qualification ‘places one of our largest and most successful global industries at risk, one worth £92bn a year to the UK economy. That is bigger than oil, gas, life sciences, automotive and aeronautics combined. This is at a time when economic growth is of critical importance to the UK’s international position.’ Fifteen Turner Prize winners have signed the letter, including Lubaina Himid, Susan Philipsz and Gillian Wearing.

The UK government says that it wants 90% of GCSE students to take the Ebacc combination by 2025. Anish Kapoor told the Guardian that the policy was a demonstration that the country was being ‘led by a bunch of halfwits, at best.’ The artists are not the first in the cultural sector to voice concern over the Ebacc. Former National Theatre director Nicholas Hytner called it one of the ‘biggest disasters of the last seven years.’

The government maintains that the policy bears no threat to takeup for arts subjects. ‘The government’s drive to ensure all pupils benefit from a stretching core academic curriculum need be no barrier to pupils enjoying a high-quality arts education,’ Minister of State for School Standards Nick Gibb argued recently in the Telegraph.

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