Focus on core subjects making teaching arts more challenging, Norfolk headteachers say

Jonathan Rockey, principal at Wymondham High Academy. Picture: Wymondham High Academy

Jonathan Rockey, principal at Wymondham High Academy. Picture: Wymondham High Academy - Credit: Archant

Schools which prioritise the arts say it is becoming more difficult to do so as pressure is piled on traditional subjects.

Alastair Ogle, head at Alderman Peel High School

Alastair Ogle, head at Alderman Peel High School - Credit: Archant

Headteachers say that measures on which schools are judged tend to focus on English, maths and sciences, putting creative subjects on the back burner.

Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) last week called on the government to give the arts parity of esteem with science and maths, and said not classing them as core risked uptake dwindling in schools and damage to creative industries.

Alastair Ogle, headteacher at Alderman Peel High School in Wells, said they worked hard to retain their focus on arts – with 41pc of its most recent year 11 cohort taking music or drama at GCSE. The school is a lead in the Norfolk Music Hub and won the hub's Secondary Music Department of the Year 2017 award.

Mr Ogle said: 'We feel that children benefit hugely from participating in arts subjects, in terms of their confidence, leadership, working as part of a team and developing creativity.

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'It is difficult to maintain because of the pressure in the amount of content within the curriculum. Even recently, with the new GCSE courses, there's much more content than there used to be, which means, particularly for students who may need more help, there's less time to get through everything.

'Schools will naturally spend time on what they are judged against, which isn't the arts and performing arts.'

But rather than a distraction, he said, the school believed arts complemented other subjects – a belief Wymondham High Academy principal Jonathan Rockey shared.

In the Wymondham school's last year 11 group, 50pc took an arts-based subject, while the amount of children studying music has doubled in the last three years.

He said: 'As an academy, we really pride ourself on a broad and balanced curriculum – the performance side of arts and drama offers a massive benefit to pupils.

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